Ribbon Cutting Event in Sarasota, Florida

Published on November 15, 2012

*Ribbon Cutting Dec. 6: Two Local Schools Benefit from Arts Integration Grant from the Kennedy Center & MetLife Foundation to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall*

What happens when you bring together students with differing abilities to build two waterfalls and paint a non-descript bridge? Magic could be one answer. Or friendship. Or jaw-dropping awe may be the best response. Come see for yourself at the official ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, December 6th at 10 a.m.

In June, the John F. Kennedy Center awarded a Very Special Arts (VSA) MetLife grant entitled Building Bridges in the School and Community to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. The grant stipulated it be used to integrate students living with disabilities alongside students who are not disabled to work together on a visual arts project. In addition, the grant allowed 400 of those students to attend two live performances of “Math Rocks” and “Super Scientific Circus,” in conjunction with the Van Wezel’s 2012 Schooltime Performances Program. These performances have curriculum “tie-ins” of science, mathematics, and critical thinking,” and meet the benchmarks for the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards which all Florida schools must meet.

The Van Wezel then contracted local artist Brenda Smoak, who is a National VSA Teaching Artist Fellow, to work with the students at Oak Park and Lakeview Elementary Schools. Smoak designed and has successfully executed outdoor installation projects that incorporate science, math, art, language arts and 21st Century Life Skills into permanent artistic installations.

Smoak’s team includes professional waterfall and pond artisans, Dave and Lisa Burns, from Backyard Getaway in Myakka City who designed & guided the students in creating an Atlantic Water Gardens Colorfalls pond free feature at each school and teaching artist Krista McCampbell who specializes in mosaics.

“Together with the students from both schools, we built two waterfalls, created a mosaic embellishment and painted a bridge. It was an amazing experience to work with these students and teachers. The students learned about each other and happily helped one another accomplish various tasks. No one was left out; there was always something a student could do, even if we used a hand-over-hand process so a student could hold on to a hose. Having students work together like this at such a young age shows them that all people are capable of contributing to the success of a project. It never ceases to amaze me what we can build together when we respect one another. I am always humbled to do this Teaching Artist work,” said Smoak.

“It was wonderful to see the students excitement while they helped create their water features and see them “get it” when they applied math & science to a practical application. The principals at both schools have shared with us the sense of pride the students have in their accomplishment. Lakeview’s principal told us that not a day goes by that she doesn’t see parents being led to the waterfall by one of the students that helped create it. This project can be integrated into any and all local schools. Students from 1st through 12th grade can benefit from this type of hands on learning using art & nature. ” said Burns

Teachers from both schools actively participated by teaching their students about water flow and evaporation, self-circulating pumps and auto-fill floats before the students came out to construct the waterfalls. Students were ecstatic about being able to dig with shovels and build with stone. Using math skills, they plotted, measured, leveled and secured stone. Within two days they had built a beautiful waterfall, under Dave Burn’s guidance, which they then embellished with a mosaic river of lily pads and flowers. Working with their horticulture teacher, they are now planting a garden and arranging benches to form a restful retreat. The students then built an above-ground waterfall on the Lakeview campus, which introduced them to a completely different design process. Art teachers at both schools have co-mingled their classes, guiding students in creating 60 tiles which will be installed on the bridge. Additionally, Oak Park students made two mosaic welcome signs for the bridge entrances and the music teacher at Lakeview has worked with her students as they create a song for the ribbon cutting ceremony on December 6th. “This is truly arts integration at its best. It is wonderful when schools understand the concept and invite us to create magnificent art with their students”, said Smoak.

The bridge has been affectionately named The Friendship Bridge as a result of this project and students who did not know one another before now wave hello and take pride in identifying what they personally contributed to the project.

Please plan to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, December 6th at 10 am on the bridge that joins the two campuses (rain date is Friday, December 7th at 10 am).

Address: Oak Park School, 7285 Proctor Road, Sarasota, FL, phone: 941-361-6428

Lakeview Elementary School, 7299 Proctor Road, Sarasota, FL, phone: 941-361-6571

Press release contact info:
Lisa Burns 941-752-7663

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