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The City Journals

Murray’s PTA uses Zoom to unite families in watercolor class; more engaging activities being planned

Nov 22, 2021 12:13PM ● By Julie Slama

During Region 19 PTA’s family art night, students and families could learn watercolor techniques and terminology from gradient wash and lift off to blending and scumbling. (Screenshot)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This fall, 10-year-old Solveig Larson watched painting techniques with her family on Zoom. 

Days later the Parkside Elementary student tried a watercolor technique using salt while making birthday cards for her uncle. Solveig’s dad tried another technique using plastic wrap with watercolors.

“It was stuff we’ve never done before,” said her mother, Cheree.

Teaching the techniques was part of Region 19 PTA’s Reflections arts program kick-off, said Cheree Larson, who is the region’s Reflections director.

“Now that everyone knows how to use Zoom, we were thinking, maybe it would be just an opportunity to do some fun family activities that way,” she said.

The PTA brought in Kara Aina, who teaches art at Mountain Heights Academy. She provided step-by-step instructions for the families, teaching watercolor techniques and terminology from gradient wash and lift off to blending and scumbling.

“I chose the techniques that I did so parents and students would see the diverse ways watercolor can be used, hopefully showing them new techniques that they’ve never seen before and increasing their curiosity and excitement to explore watercolor either as an individual, as a family or maybe deciding to implement it as their medium of choice for this year’s art Reflection competition,” Aina said. “I was thrilled with the level of engagement and interaction that the families demonstrated. They were actively thinking about creative ways to use each technique as we explored them. I was also so impressed with the questions the families came up with; there was some apparent critical thinking occurring and as an art educator, that’s pretty thrilling to witness.”

The idea for the family art night over Zoom came from the region director, Jeannette Bowen, who learned of a similar idea happening at a school during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They were doing it as a school, but I thought why not do it as a whole district?” Bowen said. “So, I said, ‘Let’s put it out there for everybody’ and we were pleased with how many participated. I had a couple parents comment that ‘It was really fun’ and ‘I really want to give that a try, too,’ which I think is great. I think anything that we can do that is creative and gives us a chance to try new things, is wonderful; it was a pleasant surprise from the evening that I didn’t expect.”

The art night also was posted on the school district’s YouTube channel for a couple weeks to provide additional access for families who were unable to join that night.

Bowen said there were several goals involved in the family art night. 

“One was to give families a chance to gather around the computer and have a free family activity to participate in and increase family engagement,” she said. “Another reason is by having it be districtwide, we’re hoping that families from different schools become unified. So often, our school events are all separate so when we do a districtwide event for families representing all schools, it can unify our district.”

Bowen also said that it was a kick-off for Reflections, but also for PTA so families understand some of the activities they sponsor and will become involved.

“We’re also hoping that maybe by providing a couple fun activities, then we can also provide some parent training on other topics like human trafficking or vaping. This way, they will be familiar with this type of format and maybe would be willing to get on and listen to experts and understand how these things are affecting our kids,” she said.

The region PTA members already are talking about other ideas for activities, such as a scientist or magician, to engage families over Zoom.

As far as Reflections, Bowen said that Region 19 students typically do well.

“We hope it will spark more interest in participating in Reflections. Normally we get a lot of great Reflections’ entries, and our district does really well on the state level,” she said. “This is just another push to remind families that Reflections is open for all to participate in and to have fun with it.”