Project developed by Pablo Rivera & Karie Wycoff for the Ricks Center for Gifted Children at the University of Denver
The philosophy of the Ricks Center follows an immersive approach to learning that is largely driven by interests expressed by the students themselves. This population is comprised of ‘justice-seekers’ who care deeply for the world at an early age. The passion and enthusiasm demonstrated by the students during their visual exploration of the issues surrounding plastic pollution is inspiring. Their depth of understanding of how the issues are interwoven through our daily lives instills confidence that it is not only possible to educate children on the impacts of their choices, they can also take the initiative to develop better habits. We are left with a feeling that this generation is quite capable of stepping up to the environmental challenges they will face through their lifetime, as long as we take the time to engage them in an in-depth consideration of the issues at hand.
The Debris Project was integrated into the arts portion as an introduction to the Passions with a Purpose segment of the spring semester. The students were then encouraged to pursue the development of a project around their own passions for the remainder of the semester. This gave them an opportunity to experience what it was like to share their passion while trying to engage a wider population around the issue they had chosen.
Primary School Atelier
The 3rd and 4th graders at the Ricks Center have been working on a unit titled Passions with a Purpose where students use one of their passions to make a positive impact on the world. The Beyond the Art Room Debris installation was the perfect opportunity for students to use their creative pursuits to participate in creating an installation that brings awareness to a particular cause. The students were first introduced to the project when Lee Lee talked to the students about her own artwork and the work she does to bring awareness to the pollution of our oceans, and in particular the invasion of non-biodegradable plastics. Students then used found pieces of plastic that washed ashore to create individual pieces of ocean life that would be incorporated into a larger installation. Students were allowed to build their own connections between ocean preservation and the materials that would form their artwork. As a result, the artwork the students created ranged collages of fish and turtles to assemblages of coral reefs with its own mini-ecosystem.
Early Childhood Education Atelier
As we approach Spring, Early Childhood students become very excited about animals and water subjects. It was a perfect opportunity to collaborate with the Debris Project. Because of our gifted population, there is a global awareness and sensitivity to the world around them, even at a young age. Art with a Purpose is always a favorite topic – so combining their love of water, animals and community purpose – is always successful. This is also a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with other ages and to begin understanding of how the individual works toward a common goal that involves multiple age groups. Also the idea of multiple individuals having the same vision but vastly unique outcomes is incredibly valuable at this age.
Using our in-house Creative Recycling Center (CRC), Preschool students started with plastic lids and added foam pieces, aluminum foil, sequences, and other random recycling materials to create fish. I gave them a brief demo before we started and they had to work out the form and function of fish to be sure to include mouth, fins and eye.
I’m always looking for opportunities to expose PreK students to printmaking. In PreK, we talked about local water animals (animals that live in or near water) as a whole class and their understanding of how human made debris in the water system affects the animals and their habitat. After choosing an animal, they created a simple line drawing that we transferred onto a foam plate. For the background we rolled cool colored paint on to plastic bags, plastic netting and bubble wrap and printed on paper. For the animals (foreground), we printed the foam plates using warm colors and then added plastic Creative Recycling Center materials to embellish the final animal before adding them to their background.