Celebrating the whole child

Fritsch Elementary School second-grader Eric Billings works on a clay art project.

Fritsch Elementary School second-grader Eric Billings works on a clay art project.

Students at Fritsch Elementary School are setting aside textbooks and pencils this week in favor of paintbrushes, markers and clay.

“We have just finished all the statewide testing,” said Sarah Billings, a PTA mom at the school. “Now, we want to enrich the children’s educational experience. We want to really celebrate the whole child.”

Billings wrote a grant and received funding from the Nevada Arts Council to bring in four artists through the Artist in Residence program, teaching an array of techniques such as water color, pottery and sculpture.

Amanda Palmer, who works for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Nevada and the Brewery Arts Center, taught second-graders to sculpt basic animals from clay.

“I taught them simple techniques to make turtles, snakes, dogs,” she said. “But they can use their imaginations to make whatever they want.”

Isabella McNeely, 8, said the instructions made it pretty easy to make a turtle.

“You just kind of flatten it out into a shell,” she said. “The art teacher showed us how to do it.”

More than 40 parent volunteers helped out in classrooms as students put into practice the techniques demonstrated by the artists.

Stephen Reid taught fifth-graders the history behind the abstract art movement — after the invention of the camera and artists began looking inward for inspiration — focusing on the works of Wassily Kandinsky in the 1900s.

“There is an absolute value to teaching art,” Reid said. “It encourages critical thinking. It encourages you to take stock of your surroundings. And it can be used as an instrument for social change. It is extremely important.”

Carly Kluck, 8, was happy for the change of pace.

“Art is a fun activity to do,” she said. “It’s like home activities, not like math activities.”


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