Third-graders find new friends through art

May 27, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

Kathleen Boland and Frank Spicher, third-graders at Bollman Bridge Elementary School in Jessup, built their new friendship around green-painted clay triangles, rectangular tiles and small pieces of smooth colored glass.

This week, teachers at Bollman Bridge -- a school that draws students from the Laurel, Savage and Jessup areas -- paired up 30 third-graders and asked them to design and make panels for a mosaic that would represent an appreciation of their differences.

Part of the plan was to pair off students, such as Kathleen and Frank, who didn't know each other, and to have them work together on a panel of the mosaic.

The mosaic will hang around the door to the school's cafeteria, next to the front entrance.

School administrators and teachers say that if the project can help students learn something about human relations, it also may help them in accepting different cultures.

"It goes along with our emphasis on multiculturalism," said Jennifer Kaples, the school's art teacher. "We wanted something different than just a painted mural on the wall."

All year, school administrators have worked to encourage positive relations between students, hoping to prevent the nationwide trend of violence in the schools from spreading to Bollman Bridge.

"It all started with everything we were seeing in the newspapers and on television," said Maria McNelis, vice principal at Bollman Bridge.

"We just wanted to have the students learn to respect others," she added.

Throughout the year, students helped make quilts depicting people working together.

Teachers posted the names of students who showed kindness toward someone else.

And administrators made a "Human Relations Culture Box" for people to offer suggestions on how to promote positive relations.

Ms. Kaples, the art teacher, and artist-in-residence Diane Kuthy proposed having students design and make a mosaic.

"It's the idea of them working together," Ms. Kuthy said. "They had to make a decision on what the whole project was going to be and then carry that out."

For the past two days, Ms. Kuthy, a Baltimore resident who works with children at the Baltimore Museum of Art, mixed mortar and pasted it onto 18-by-25-inch plywood boards.

The students plotted out where on the board they would place the tiles, marbles and pieces of glass that look like smooth, colored stones. Then they placed them in the mortar on the wooden boards.

"It's hard work, but it's fun at the same time. I love it," Kathleen said. "Once we had an idea, we sort of gave a little kick to it."

As for working with someone that he didn't know, Frank said, "It's not so bad."

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