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The City Journals

Holladay area children use art to solve problems

May 09, 2018 02:08PM ● By Jessica Ivins

Grace Shellum, a third-grader, explained the problem of needing schools throughout the world in order to prepare people for jobs to help their families financially. (Jessica Ivins/City Journals)

By Jessica Ivins | [email protected]

When Emily White, PTA art chairperson at Howard R. Driggs Elementary, received a grant from Holladay Art Council, she knew she wanted to give children multiple facets to express themselves. Art can do just that, crossing cultural and language barriers. It also allows the children to express their true concerns and worries. 

White said, “We found similar problems across the board are bullying, anxiety, and depression.” There were also many other problems that begin in the home and extend to around the world.

The “One Pen Can Change the World” project was combined with Literacy Week in March 2018. White corralled partner schools to join her forces. Lincoln Elementary Art Specialist Sheryl Thorell helped 500 students create visual solutions to problems. Other partners were East High School, Canyon Rim Academy, and a school in Ghana, Adehye Preparatory.

On April 13 at Millcreek Library, children from all the schools gathered with family to reveal the children’s thinking skills and artistic ability. Sixty-five pieces of artwork hung and revealed their solutions to a problem.

Luke Bulloch, a third-grader, drew a picture of his mom holding her newest baby. Luke’s problem: “My mom just had a baby and she needs to take care of us.” He said, “I need to help her do things around the house.” Sometimes we are the solution!

Another problem in the home was that a child did not have a father. This problem brought some parents to tears, along with the child presenting. Some problems were anxiety from too much homework, gun violence, pollution, car crashes, cancer, and homelessness.

Imani Harnage, a third-grader, had a problem that she felt could be solved by involving more citizens. “We use too much plastic,” she said. Her solution: “Ask people to send letters to the law.”

Ramon Ramirez, a sixth-grade Lincoln Elementary student, presented his problem and solution at the reception. He described his drawing: “It’s Mexico and the United States without the border.” Ramirez said, “People want to come to the United States for a better life.” Ramon recently saw his friend’s dad get deported.

The project incorporated children teaching children. The Future Problem Solvers at Howard R. Driggs taught 22 classes. They read “Malala’s Magic Pencil,” a book by Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai about a child in Pakistan who wishes for a magic pencil. They discussed Malala, problem solved and worked together.

This fostered a mentor relationship that White had not anticipated. She is currently working with the principal to continue a micro-Malala program to teach values such as courage, kindness and perseverance. These would be taught by children in leadership roles.

This should help the school target and solve the across-the-board problems of bullying, anxiety and depression.

The children received a letter from Yousafzai. She thanked the children for their kind letters and reminded them that you do not have to be an adult to lead. “A child’s voice can be heard around the world.”

We are fortunate in America that girls receive the same education opportunities as boys. Malala wrote in her letter, “There are currently 130 million girls around the world not in school.”

Some of the children were inspired by Malala’s book. Grace Shellum, a third-grader, wrote, “Children should not have to work instead of going to school.” This is why Grace drew a picture of schools all over the world.