Middle school students spread hope through art

Hope. Connections. Care. Future.

For most people - including students - these words carry different meanings than they did a month ago. They’re a handful of the themes that Lincoln Public Schools middle school art teachers are asking their students to explore during the coming weeks.

When COVID-19 forced LPS to transition to remote learning, art educators in the school district shifted their focus from more traditional classroom units to units in which students work more independently and utilize whatever materials they may have at home. Teachers and LPS administrators also thought of lessons and weekly themes that will challenge students to think not only creatively but critically.

Last week’s theme for middle school students was “hope,” something many people are searching for right now.

“In our hope activity the essential question - ‘In times of uncertainty, how can we find and share hope?’ - provides students an opportunity to notice how others in our community are spreading hope and taking action,” said Lorinda Rice, LPS art curriculum specialist.

Lux Middle School art teacher Emily Pieper said they want students to make personal connections to all of the themes, beginning with hope.

“Hope is a really important idea right now in our world. And you see so many different examples of how people are spreading hope,” Pieper said. “And so when the hope theme came up, and teachers were tasked to come up with the content and what we would be doing for it, we wanted kids to reach out and think about how they could view themselves and work through being hope spreaders themselves.”

Irving Middle School art teacher Kacee Conley said the projects her students completed were inspiring. She had students create sidewalk chalk art, paintings, photography, collages - even a face mask with the word “hope” sewn across the front. Pieper had a student compose an original song. 

“Oh my gosh, I would check my Google classroom constantly,” Conley said. “It brought joy to my day. I would either laugh or I would cry or I would just go, ‘They really knocked it out of the park.’ I could not be prouder.”

The remaining themes are: past and present/then and now; place; connections; care; change; and future.

“In the coming weeks we hope they’ll continue to notice deeply how topics we may have taken for granted may have more significance in their world now,” Rice said.

Published: April 17, 2020, Updated: April 17, 2020