Students build bridges with textured art

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By Deb Hurley Brobst

Wilmot Elementary fifth-graders learned a big lesson from a simple art project.

The students, who were tasked with creating art projects that stimulated more senses than sight, decided to take the projects to other children who could really appreciate them. They traveled down the hill recently to Fletcher Miller School, a Jeffco school for special-needs students.

Many of the students there can’t walk or talk, so they communicate in other ways, according to Fletcher Miller art teacher Jenni Halsted.

The Wilmot students set up their projects in the cafeteria, and the Fletcher Miller pupils went from project to project to see, touch and hear the artwork.

The big lesson for the fifth-graders: Kids, no matter what their disability, are the same. They like to laugh, have fun and learn from one another. The Wilmot students learned that lesson by watching the Fletcher Miller students be themselves.

The Fletcher Miller students “have fun, laugh and have friends,” fifth-grader Laila Vienneau said. “They’re just like normal kids.”

Fifth-grader Cadence Cook said the Wilmot students were a bit nervous at first because they didn’t know what to expect, but it didn’t take long for everyone to become friends.

“Just because they’re different,” fifth-grader Isabelle Matthews said, “they can still have the same connections with art that we do. It was cool to see how happy they could get just with art. That’s why I love art. It can make a difference in the world.”

The students made everything in 3-D so the Fletcher Miller students could touch them and used sound boxes so they could hear.

The fifth-graders were inspired to create the multi-sense art when their art teacher, Elisabeth Marcus, told them about her friend who is deaf and blind, and is an accomplished artist, though her work is nontraditional.

One group of kids made a landscape, using cotton balls for clouds “because they’re nice and soft,” Isabelle said. They used pebbles for a gravel path. The sound box had birds chirping.

Another group made an African forest with giraffes, tiger cubs and a nest with tiny eggs.

Kole Gallagher, Jacob Ciancia, Cameron Brown and Jake Baysinger used painstaking detail to create a three-dimensional car, plus they crouched below the table on which their diorama sat so they could make car sounds.
“We tried to make it as creative as possible,” Jake said.

Burlap grass and foil hubcaps added to the details.

“We made it so if someone was blind, they could feel the car,” Jacob said.
For all the fifth-graders, it was an eye-opening trip to find that kids who are in wheelchairs or who have disabilities are more similar than they are different.

Madeline Schmid called the trip to Fletcher Miller memorable.
“It was one of the best experiences of my life,” she said. “I love seeing people smile.”

Contact Deb Hurley Brobst at deb@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1041. Check www.CanyonCourier.com for updates.