Visual Arts Flourish at Lakelands Park Middle School’s Arts Night

Photo | Sharon Allen Gilder Sixth graders (center, right) Sadie Carey and Janelle Agyarko display one of the sweet projects completed in Tech Ed at Lakelands Park Middle, taught by Mr. John Leach (left).

Photo | Sharon Allen Gilder
Sixth graders (center, right) Sadie Carey and Janelle
Agyarko display one of the sweet projects completed in
Tech Ed at Lakelands Park Middle, taught by Mr. John Leach (left).

I see, I think, I wonder were three categories of focus as students perused the flourish of visual arts exhibits at Lakelands Park Middle School’s Festival of Arts Night on Dec. 12. With assignment sheets in hand from their arts rotation teachers Ms. Bowden, Mr. Fitzpatrick, Ms. Hoover, Mr. Leach, Ms. Liu and Mr. Lubin, students transformed themselves into junior art critics as they focused on questions like “What catches your eye? What do you notice when you look closer? What materials, colors, objects, people, events, places, shapes, can you identify?”

The students’ critiques included careful thought. They pondered “What seems to be the main idea? What would make this project even better? What are some suggestions for improvement with color, layout, design, organization, performance?” Students were also instructed to “wonder” and ask the questions: “What does the project make you curious about? What would you want to ask the artist?”

Arts and health/PE resource teacher and girls’ basketball coach Stacy Azizirad said she likes the “fact that the kids can share and showcase what they’ve been working on. … I’m all about community and getting the community involved in what we’re doing in school. … Arts Night brings in a real sense of community to the spirit of the school.”

Principal Deborah Higdon said, “I like seeing the student’s faces and hearing them explain what they did to their family and friends. I can hear and see their pride in what they accomplished. I also like seeing the staff, who teach all student electives, get the recognition for the outstanding work they do with students.”

In addition to 60 large panels displaying a variety of media, the family-oriented evening featured a tour of the TV studio, art demonstrations, theater performances with staged readings, different elements of visual art such as creative expression, production and freestanding sculptures in Ms. Hoover’s class, and a visit to Mr. Leach’s Tech Ed classroom where STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) concepts were in full force.

HGTV’s show “Tiny House” might find inspiration from the innovations instituted by Mr. Leach’s students who designed a blueprint for a 24-by-8-foot piece of real estate they were given in his classroom to create a livable small space. Students also built tiny houses to scale with balsa wood studs on 16-inch centers. Math was important to creation of the houses and with another project where students measured 10- and 20-degree angles to build benches.

His students also created “foam gnomes” by mixing two polymers together to produce a foam insulation-like substance. “You have to stir it 100 times for the mix to rise out of the cup and become a foam,” noted Leach. Hourglasses are implemented in his class to build on the concept of ‘form follows function.’ Students used sand or water to calculate the discharge in both directions. Sixth grader Sadie Carey said she enjoys the different topics in Tech Ed. “In other classes there’s one thing we focus on, but in his classwe focus on a lot of different things.”

Eighth graders Amy Nguyen, Caroline Axley, and Melissa Szwed managed an interactive photography exhibit inspired by tableau scenes and portraiture by professional artists Justin Bettman and Carrie Mae Weems. The Lakelands Park scene was designed and built by students in Mr. Fitzpatrick’s class. “If you zoom out it looks like a set, but if you zoom in, it looks like an enclosed space,” said Nguyen. Visitors to the display based on Weems’ “Kitchen Table Series” were invited to sit in the scene and manipulate its props to act out a situation for the camera to capture. Szwed said she enjoys the class because of “all the freedom we have to take the pictures we want.”

Sixth grader Janelle Agyarko reflected on her time in Mrs. Hoover’s class. “She takes time to teach us how to draw things and the way she teaches us, she’s actually having fun while she’s doing it.”

Mr. Lubin’s seventh grade Digital Art students created CD cover designs for fictional music artists. The dimensions of the front cover versus the back, placement of the spine and how to achieve the desired visual effects with layers and transparency levels were some of the technical elements students needed to consider as they produced their project.

Additional photography projects exposed students to creating a personal logo to protect their copyright; understanding the rule of thirds; developing portraits with an infinite background; the challenge of locating 24 crayon colors in the environment; and a focus on how definitions of bias and stereotypes might affect a job as a photographer. Eighth grade students transformed photographs of themselves to create colorful, Andy Warhol-style portraits.

“Arts Night lets students showcase the unique things that they are able to do here at Lakelands Park in the form of art and for the parents and the community to get involved in the arts. … We want to keep kids involved in art,” explained Azizirad.

Higdon added, “Students learn that the arts are a great way to enjoy life on a deeper level. They see art classes as a period to de-stress and show their creative side. Research suggests that students exposed to the arts results in higher grades, which can lead to higher graduation rates. An appreciation for the arts is also linked to an increase in critical thinking skills, increased self-esteem, and an increase in the use of multiple intelligences.”