Ceramics educator Ms. Stringer finds unique opportunities to inspire her students and their creativity during e-learning.
Ceramics is not a subject that lends itself well to e-learning, given that it is highly unlikely that students have kilns at home. But ceramics educator Elizabeth Stringer has the creativity and commitment to turn a huge impediment into a unique opportunity to inspire her students to learn new techniques—and see their world in a whole new way.
Ms. Stringer’s Upper School ceramics students were in the midst of creating ceramic objects that interact with light when the restrictions to combat COVID-19 went into effect. Ms. Stringer was sad that they had to abandon the project, but she immediately went back to her own roots in visual arts to form a new lesson plan.
“I’m a multimedia artist and trained in sculpture,” explains Ms. Stringer. “So, I took the students back to the basics of contemporary sculpture and asked them to think about the materials they have in their homes, and what meaning those materials have. Then they had to choose one of those materials and transform it in some way.” One student chose lemons and made a lamp; another transformed pencils into a balancing sculpture. A student baseball player broke down a bat and made it into a key chain.
“The students are embracing these lessons and having a lot of fun,” says Ms. Stringer. “The e-learning circumstance has gotten the students out of the traditional curriculum and helped them to consider their lives and surroundings in a new way. And it’s given me an opportunity to talk to them about what they really care about, what is significant to them. It’s been phenomenal so far.” So much so that Ms. Stringer is considering bringing these sculpture elements into the classroom when regular classes resume.
For her fifth- and sixth-grade art students, Ms. Stringer is focused on teaching them the basics of photography at home with their cell phones. So far, they’ve documented what their quarantine life has been like and worked with portraits. “This is where I’ve seen the easiest transition for the students,” she shares. “Taking photos on their phones is something they do all the time, but now they are considering it in a different way, or they are empowered in a different way to make smart choices. They are creating incredible photographs.”
Despite the challenges of the times, it’s been rewarding for Ms. Stringer to see her students develop more faith in their abilities, and in art itself, and show true enthusiasm for self-expression. For her—and any artist—it underscores the important role that all art mediums play in times like this. “You need to have works of art as a reflection of what’s going on but also as a reminder of our humanity and perspective,” says Ms. Stringer.
The work created by students at this time will be preserved on The Muse, a newly designed website created by students of the National Art Honor Society.