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Back ESOL Students Celebrate Their Culture Through Art

Photo: Students at work
Students prepare clay for use before cutting out the shapes for their plates.

Art teacher Ann Crerand and ESOL teacher Jennifer Wheeler worked together to develop and deliver an after-school ceramics program designed to enrich and extend the classroom experience for ESOL students. They created a unique opportunity for those students to explore, celebrate and share their cultural heritage, improving cultural awareness throughout the school community -- "multiculturalism through art," they called it. The Brighton Education Fund helped the teachers purchase the materials required; the teachers spent personal time to deliver this wonderful experience.

The focus of the program was twofold:

  • To provide a creative program outside of the normal academic setting in which the students could experience the use of clay as an artistic medium.
  • To share unique aspects of their culture with one another and with the rest of the school community.
Photo: Students at work
Students work to enhance their designs using colored underglazes.

The program began with a discussion of the symbolism present in each student's culture. Students were asked to bring in examples from home which possess specific symbolism. They shared articles of clothing, metal ware, serving pieces, jewelry, and more. The group explored the meaning of all the symbols and made some interesting discoveries about symbols that are common to more than one culture but might have different meanings in each.

Over the ensuing weeks, each student created a ceramic plate making use of symbolism from their own culture as design elements. The students began with preliminary sketches to establish their designs, which gave the teachers an opportunity to introduce artistic terminology and the Principles of Design.

Photo: Students at work
The students enjoyed socializing as they worked on their plates.

Most of the students had never worked with clay before, so Ann provided demonstrations and an explanation of terms. Creating the plates involved multiple steps, carried out over several weeks. The students' finished plates were allowed to dry and were bisque fired. The students then used a wide variety of colored glazes to enhance their designs. The pieces were fired a second time, then clear glaze was applied and each plate was fired one last time.

Photo: Students at work
Kuldeep is proud to show off her beautiful creation.

The teachers and students alike were very pleased with the results of this special project. The plates are beautiful and reflect meaningful symbolism from each student's culture. All of the pieces were on display in the showcases in front of the auditorium for about a week. Each student wrote a short description about himself, his homeland, and the inspiration for his artwork to accompany the work on display. In spite of any awkwardness in their use of language, the students were able to "speak" to the community clearly through their art. Jennifer and Ann hosted an exhibition and reception in honor of the students and their families on Tuesday May 25th from 7-8 pm.

Enabling this kind of enrichment experience is at the heart of BEF's mission, but the teachers responsible -- Ann Crerand and Jennifer Wheeler -- deserve all the credit for developing and delivering a wonderful program, using their personal time and energy. We thank them!

Photo: Students at work
Plates created by students from the ESOL program.

story by Jim Kane
photos by Ann Crerand

June 23, 2004

Brighton Education Fund
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