by Cassie Stephens, Art Teacher Johnson Elementary
The best part about being an art teacher is dreaming. Dreaming up projects for your artists that you know will leave an impact. That impact might be as small as a happy memory or as big as a desire to pursue art (or, better yet, art education!). The ripple effect of introducing children to the different means of expressing themselves creatively is boundless.
One project that seems to inspire a chain reaction of excitement, creativity, and confidence is our annual chalked ceiling tile event. Each spring, I gather all of my second grade artists into the gym, give them a ceiling tile, and, for the next two hours, lead them in drawing a beautifully bright and colorful masterpiece. At the end of our two hours, not only is our ceiling tile covered in chalk but so are we . . . and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
As each young artist completes their masterpiece, they are asked to sign it. This spring marks our third year to create these ceiling tiles. My students understand that their work will hang in the ceiling of our school as their magnificent mark that they leave behind. As they move forward into third grade, they leave this beautiful creation as a gift to our school.
So far, my students have created butterflies, flowers, and now, fish. The ceiling of our school is one of the first things visitors notice as it’s so colorful, happy, and unusual. Art in the ceiling isn’t something you see every day unless you are visiting the Sistine Chapel. But if you talked to these young artists, you’d find that they are just as proud as I’d imagine Michelangelo was all those years ago.
And they aren’t the only ones. One of our amazing custodians at my school loves this project. He starts asking in early spring when we will be starting, what our theme will be, and where the tiles will be hung. The morning after the tiles are complete, he spends hours removing pristine tiles and replacing them with our colorful ones. Along with my principal, Tosha Baugh, he’s one of the biggest advocates for this fun project.
After the tiles are up, the kids and I take a tour to find their tiles. We admire the creativity; we applaud the efforts, and we recognize the hard work that went into each tile created. I hope this project leaves an impact. Scratch that. I’ve seen the pride and joy in each face when we take a look at the tiles. I know this project creates a ripple effect of pride, happiness, and confidence. I look forward to doing this year after year with my budding artists.