Skip to main content

The City Journals

Artful April for Cottonwood Elementary

May 02, 2017 03:55PM ● By Bryan Scott

The BTS art specialist strives to incorporate art with lesson curriculums. (Aspen Perry/City Journals)

By Aspen Perry  |  [email protected]
From floor to ceiling, the walls of Cottonwood Elementary auditorium were adorned with student creations for their annual April Art Stroll, an event many at the school and community look forward to.
“These are wonderful events which bring the community, parents and students together to celebrate art done by our students,” said Paulette McMillan, principal of Cottonwood Elementary.
The annual event helps raise funds to compensate for a portion of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson (BTS) art specialist salary, as well as art supplies that are not covered through grants.
“The Beverly Sorenson art grant gives us $1 per child for supplies, and (last year) we were able to make enough that we had $3 per child for supplies (this year) … which is why every child has a canvas this year,” said Kristal Affleck, a school arts volunteer.
The BTS art program was created to help bring art back to schools where funds were diminishing, with the intent to integrate art with core curriculum and provide students another medium for concepts they are learning.
It does not come as a shock there is a considerable amount of effort that goes into organizing an event of this caliber. As Affleck explained, the process really begins at the start of the year by assigning an art mom to each classroom. The role of the art mom is to help Sheryl Thorell, BTS art specialist for Cottonwood and Lincoln Elementaries, when she is in the classroom. Art moms are also responsible for choosing an artist to highlight each month to ensure every student in the school has artwork showcased throughout the year.
In addition to art moms, there is an art committee that meets monthly until January, at which time the committee works overtime getting student artwork ready to be sellable products for the April Art Stroll.
In addition to raising funds to keep an art specialist on staff and art supplies in stock, for those who volunteer each year, the real icing on the cake is being able to watch the joy of the students as they present their creations.
“This is my sixth year being in charge, and the main reason I keep doing it is to see the look on the kids’ faces. It is so rewarding to see them work so hard to accomplish something and be so proud of themselves,” Affleck said.
In addition to helping students expand their imaginative brains and sense of pride, art specialists can also assist teachers in further covering lesson plans the homeroom teacher may not have had enough time to fully cover.
Kindergarten students’ artwork reflected lessons on plants and bees, fourth-grade students made animal masks to reflect lessons on habitats and fifth-grade students created works relevant to Utah landscape.
“When I think about a lesson for each grade, I try to include the classroom teachers. Working together, I can help with a science or social studies lesson that would not get as much time (in the classroom),” said Thorell.
This technique is evident when viewing the curriculum that coincided with the artwork up for sale, which given the volunteer efforts and student dedication, is a bargain at $20 for a framed keepsake.
In addition to art, BTS incorporates other creative mediums, including dance, drama and music. The dance element was presented outside Cottonwood Elementary as students from each grade beamed while performing dance routines for their families.
McMillan said she looks forward to these moments too, “I love to watch the pride of our students in what they have accomplished this year. Their faces glow with pride and satisfaction. The parents are a little proud, too.”