At Oak Mountain Intermediate School the students in Mrs. Dickerson’s self-contained classroom have thoroughly enjoyed their weekly visits to the art room with Ms. Leigh Walker. The initial goal was to provide a meaningful creative experience in a supportive environment by letting students explore the various textures and materials used in the art making process. However, the whole experience has turned into so much more for everyone involved.
One of the students’ favorite projects so far this year involved creating grocery carts filled with an assortment of food; twenty-one real fruits and vegetables were utilized for printmaking. The students also enjoyed creating sculptures of snowmen, Mardi Gras masks, paper snow globes and monsters that represent one-of-a-kind pieces of art. Lessons that related to their regular assignments included landscapes with yellowhammers for Alabama history, scenes with spiders and with jellyfish for the habitat unit and banks for studying money.
Ms. Walker said, “I love seeing the excitement when they’re doing something for the first time and their joy as they develop proficiency with a skill. I also enjoy the challenge of teaching adaptive art; the opportunity to improvise ‘on the fly’ happens all the time. Some steps we consider easy may be more challenging, but other skills we might predict to be challenging can produce the most amazing results. The best feeling is when the children are totally engaged in what we’re doing.”
Ms. Walker and her students have especially enjoyed getting ready for the Shelby County Special Olympics by creating the Intermediate school’s team banner. This year’s theme is Let Me Be Brave; the words come from a passage in the Special Olympics Creed that says ‘If I do not succeed, let me be brave in the attempt.’ “Since one of the synonyms for brave is lion-hearted, we decided to create a lion in its habitat, “ said Ms. Walker.
The large pieces of the lion were cut out by the children. Some students used crayons to draw the eyes and ears. Another student reluctant to free draw loves stencils, so Ms. Walker created a stencil for that child to define and locate the mouth of the lion. Holes were poked in the lion’s face to thread pipe cleaner whiskers. Lines were drawn on an assortment of colored papers so the children could cut the pieces of the lion’s colorful mane. With the speech teacher’s guidance, the children practiced verbal skills choosing colors of paper and asking for various materials to complete their tasks.
Once the lion was complete the children learned about the lion’s habitat as they created sand, rock and grass for him. The students drew with orange, yellow and brown colors to give the sand texture. They chose various shades of green papers and tore them to create grass. They chose the placement of the various rocks and then sponge-painted the sky to create clouds. When the banner was finally complete, “The students and I were so thrilled with the results that we showed it off to the other special education teachers and our principal. In very short order it was decided that our banner should become a team shirt for each of the students and for anyone else on staff that was interested. We are all very proud of our students and their lion! We can’t wait to show him off at the Special Olympics!”