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CASE STUDIES: Toolbox for Educators

by Ann T. Rosenthal (2004)

This is part of the Toolbox for Educators
The following projects demonstrate how ecoart is used to educate the public at all levels--from K-12 to college and adult learners. Of course, all ecoart is educational, but the difference here is that these projects are created by students/public under the direction of an ecoartist/educator. This evolving compilation of ecoart student projects will be useful in sharing what we do with one another, and hopefully spreading the word to educational institutions about the value of ecoart education.

The Children's Forest Nature Walk
Location: San Bernardino, CA
Grade Level: 5-12
Artist: Ruth Wallen

Ruth Wallen, The Children's Forest Nature Walk, San Bernadino, California, 1996.
Ruth Wallen, The Children's Forest Nature Walk, San Bernadino, California, 1996.

In the San Bernardino Children's Forest youth are actively involved in the care and interpretation of forest resources. Artist Ruth Wallen was invited to work with area youth to develop five large interpretive panels to be placed along a nature trail of the youth's design. In a series of weekend workshops, participants created images and wrote stories from which, in consultation with the youth, the artist developed digital montages. Each 24"x36" panel is covered with etched plexiglass, providing accessibility for the visually handicapped as well as a surface from which visitors can make etchings. On other occasions, Ruth also worked with youth to create an indoor mural for the Visitor Center and an Explorer Guide to the forest that has been widely distributed to forest visitors and schools throughout the San Bernardino/Riverside/Los Angeles region.

More info... (then click on Children's Forest)

Compost Bin Project
Location: Slippery Rock University, PA
Grade Level: 10-Adult
Artist: John Roloff

John Roloff, "Compost Bin Project," Slippery Rock University, PA, 1996

In April of 1996, artist John Roloff was invited to interact over the period of a week with students and staff of the Manchester Craftsman Guild of Pittsburgh, PA and The Altar Project at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, PA. He worked with students in a collaborative effort to explore the process of composting in the context of art making, investigating the conceptual, poetic, practical, social, sculptural and kinetic possibilities of compost making. Exploratory discussions about composting led to designing compost containers. Collaborative teams built working prototypes out of simple, available materials. The resulting bins were filled by students with organic materials from Manchester's kitchen and materials from the site.

More info..., here too...

Mandela Artscape
Location: San Francisco, CA
Grade Level: 6-Adult
Artist: Susan Steinman

Susan Steinman, "Mandela Artscape," San Francisco, CA, 1998

Mandela Artscape was facilitated by artist Susan Steinman as a symbol of positive urban regeneration on new-found but degraded open space where the 1989 earthquake collapsed an elevated freeway. The 2-acre median was transformed by youth and residents into a thriving garden of (mostly) native plants and walkways constructed entirely of used freeway materials. The project involved a unique multi-group collaboration of West Oakland residents and community groups, Caltrans (land owner), the City of Oakland, Merritt College, and the Museum of Children's Art (nonprofit sponsor). Student gardeners were able to obtain college credit and a certificate in landscape design through participation in the project.

More info...

Procession of the River Species
Location: Ft. Collins, CO
Grade Level: 6-Adult
Artist: Lynne Hull

Lynne Hull, "Procession of the River Species," Ft. Collins, CO, 2002

Procession of the River Species was first created in Olympia, Washington by Earthbound Productions director, Eli Sterling. Since its inception in 1995, processions have sprung up across the country, including Ft. Collins, under the direction of artist Lynne Hull. The Procession consists of a parade and festivities to "celebrate local wildlife species and bring their presence into the community." In preparation for the parade, local artists facilitate public workshops for children and adults where they learn about local wildlife, and then create a costume for the procession. The process is intended to "expand creativity and build community in the context of our environment."

More info...

Environmental Issue Package
Location: Pickerington, OH
Grade Level: 6-10
Artists: Mary Sheridan (art educator),Jim Villani (poet), and Deborah Griffing (painter)

Mary Sheridan, "Environmental Issue Package," Pickerington, OH, 1994

The Environmental Issue Package project was coordinated by Pinkerington Elementary School art teacher Mary Sheridan during the 1993-1994 school year. Guided by visiting poet Jim Villani and painter Deborah Griffing, 150 third grade students created "issue packages" that included three components: a ceramic tile, written poetry or prose, and a distinctively decorated container that represented the student's concern for saving wetlands. The packages were given away as gifts to adult artists who agreed to create and assemble a similar package. Each student was partnered with an adult artist who agreed to prepare a package based on the community in which the artist lived. Over 120 matches represented 45 U.S. cities, and a city from France.

More info...

Brittle Star Garden
Location: Miami-Dade Community College, FL
Grade Level: 13-17
Artist: Erica Fielder

Erica Fielder, "Brittle Star Garden," Miami-Dade Community College, FL

Under the guidance of artist Erica Fielder, Honors Art Appreciation students at Miami-Dade Community College, downtown Wolfson campus, created art that merged ecological ethics and science. At the Brittle Star Garden, for example, this art encompassed organic gardening using recycled tires and an old sailboat as raised beds, sculpture that feeds and shelters migrating birds, and a unique kind of nature walk that gets you on your knees looking at tiny insects.The class was a three credit, six week intensive consisting of a range of readings and field trips, and was part of the Environmental Fellowship, sponsored by the Environmental Ethics Institute and the Wolfson Honors Program.

More info...

Read Between the Signs
Location: Allegheny College, PA
Grade Level: 13-17
Artist: Amara Geffen

Amara Geffen, "Read Between the Signs," Allegheny College, PA, 2002

"Read Between the Signs," was launched in summer 2002 and is ongoing. Art Professor Amara Geffen and the Center for Economic and Environmental Development (CEED) Art Interns, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), created an innovative sculptural mural by reusing discarded road signs. The project spans hundreds of feet of fence surrounding PennDOT's equipment and maintenance yard. The mural hides the yard and adds to the aesthetics of the area.The design process was developed by the students using drawings and models, followed by input from community members. Design themes were based on PennDOT's role in the community, the local terrain, local places and activities, and the importance of French Creek in the region. The overall finished mural, constructed in sections, required ingenuity and help from PennDOT employees and other CEED interns to install.

More info...

Discovery Pond: Wetland Art
Location: Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, WY
Grade Level: 6
Artist: Debbie Mathew

Debbie Mathew, "Discovery Pond: Wetland Art," Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, WY, 2001

As part of an interdisciplinary team of scientists, artists and community members devoted to establishing a wetland/pond at the local botanic gardens, artist Debbie Mathew helped to educate Grade 6 students about the function, value, and beauty of this ecological niche. In the spring of 2001, students helped plant the starter vegetation in the pond, aiding in the restoration of a valuable natural ecosystem that serves nature and humans alike. Debbie's focus was to guide students to create images and verses that transformed their newly acquired knowledge and feelings about wetlands into postcards (subsequently printed by a local company). These vibrant educational tools for visitors are now "in situ" at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens "Discovery Pond" site in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Children from the region now visit the site as part of their school curricula.

More info...

Nature Walk in the City
Location: Baltimore City, MD
Grade Level: 7-10 & 13-17
Artist: Ann Rosenthal

Ann Rosenthal, "Nature Walk in the City," Baltimore City, MD

This middle-school workshop was developed by University of Maryland Baltimore County students through the course, Imaging and Writing the Environment, cross-listed between the Art Department and Interdisciplinary Studies. Under the direction of Visiting Assistant Professor Ann Rosenthal, students engaged in readings and discussions to deepen their understanding of environmental issues, and surveyed how contemporary artists are responding to these concerns. Students identified environmental problems facing Baltimore City, and then agreed upon a collaborative community education project that highlighted connections between neighborhoods and the Chesapeake Bay. Mini-workshops were designed and taught by the college students to neighborhood children through the School 33 Arts Center, and covered Bay ecology, local tree identification, sewage systems, recycling, and postcard making.

More info...

Art and Nature at the Leighton Centre
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Artists: Kristin Boettger and Steve Jarand

Art and Nature at the Leighton Centre
Young people explore the outdoors through art projects at the Leighton Art Centre.

The Art and Nature program is a one-day program for kids and adolescents, designed to increase self-esteem and foster a meaningful, creative relationship with the natural world. Our emphasis is on listening to the group and learning from the land. This program was developed in an effort to offer young people (and the adults in their lives) an alternative to highly structured, pre-planned programming. It is an opportunity for kids and adults to freely explore the natural environment, lose track of time and re-connect with the creativity and mystery inherent in the natural world.

Participants to this point have included groups from high-needs schools, adolescent treatment programs, YMCA, The Boys and Girls Club, local community programs, mosques, and homeschooling groups.

The Leighton Art Centre is located 15 km southwest of Calgary on 80 acres of foothills landscape, and is host to a variety of arts opportunities for children and adults alike. Kristin Boettger MA, CCC (art therapist, adolescent addictions counsellor and practicing artist) and Steve Jarand (wilderness interpreter, improviser, mask-maker and director) are the facilitators.

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