Eighth graders in Irene Othmer’s Makerspace class have been working hard in small groups to create big works of art.
“This particular group is doing all paintings,” Othmer said. “Last year there was some papier mache. They’re allowed to work in whatever medium they want to work in.”
The class, which is an elective, involves a lot of project-based learning. The students break up into groups and work together to conceptualize and create a group project that is donated to one of the schools or into the community. Othmer is there to supervise and provide guidance, but she does her best to step back and allow students to learn as they go.
“Sometimes they’ll come in and ask ‘How do you do this?’ and I’ll show them,” Othmer explained. “The most difficult part is that they have to figure out how to make a piece that looks like one person created it. It’s hard to do.”
Othmer has enjoyed watching the students collaborate. “They’re learning to value each other’s skills,” she said. “There’s always one kid who takes a leadership role. It’s a good life lesson for them to work like this. It’s very difficult to do art with other people.”
Moving from group to group, it was easy to spot which students have taken a leadership role. They’re the ones other students look to before making a decision on how to move forward and who are quick to talk about their work.
There are four big projects being worked on currently.
One group is creating a ceiling tile oceanography scene that will hang in Katie Allen’s classroom. The nine tiles in total will feature coral reef, squid, jellyfish and more so that marine biology students can see what they might learn about in class. The group is also hoping to raise awareness about coral bleaching and the importance of recycling and using fewer plastics.
“We decided to do ceiling tiles because it’s more unique than just a canvas painting,” said Grace Garecht. “We’re trying to use glow in the dark paint so that when you turn off the lights for videos, it will glow.”
“It will be part of the environment and take up more of the room,” added Elizabeth Bodansky.
Another group was creating a painting of the Freedom Tower that shows the World Trade Center reflected in the water. It will be hung in the Bronx firehouse where Matthew Tuohy’s dad works. “It’s to let people know that the towers are gone but the spirit is still there,” said Tuohy.
A third painting, “Imagine,” features splattered paint and inspiring words written in different languages. It will also eventually include the signatures of all eighth grade students and will be hung in Wells. “It’s supposed to represent that everyone’s opinion matters,” said Alex Meola. “It’s also going to leave a little bit of the eighth grade behind.”
The fourth large-scale painting focuses on diversity. It features a face with different skin tones, eye colors and hair textures in front of a painting of the Earth. “The world in the background shows that no matter what you look like, you can still fit in anywhere,” said Kelly Repp. Their painting will hang in CV Starr.
In the past, students have created pieces for Guiding Eyes for the Blind (which is 3D so that it can be touched and experienced like braille), the K9 unit, Putnam Ridge, and more.
“For them to get the feeling they’re doing something for a bigger cause makes it more important,” Othmer explained. “They’re enthusiastic.” Students are responsible for reaching out to the places where they’d like to see their pieces find a home.
The class incorporates all of the district’s Strategic Coherence Plan skills. Critical thinking is required as students collaborate to make their vision come to life. They have to adapt to any challenges that may come up and persevere when a piece gets tricky or frustrating. The civic responsibility part comes in with the message they hope to convey with their artwork and choosing a place to have it displayed.