Zane North Celebrates Completed Rain Garden with Songs and Thank-Yous

With $30,000 from the Subaru Foundation and $3700 from Zane North parents, the elementary school students had an opportunity to integrate arts, science, and environmentalism in one big project.

After months of fund-raising and some strong grant-writing efforts, the students at completed their .

The $30,000 project represented the collective efforts of educators at the school, professional artists from the Perkins Center, and Zane North students, who enjoyed the hands-on creativity the multidisciplinary learning exercise offered.

The learning wasn’t at all a one-sided opportunity.

Joe Brenman, artist-in-residence at , said that learning the technical aspects of a rain garden was important to him, “so we wouldn’t just be the arty people.”

He said that awareness enabled him to guide the students in grasping what types of plant life would fit well in a rain garden.

“It’s been amazing,” said first-grade teacher Danielle Shedaker. “The whole experience of getting to go to the center and learning about what works; talking and talking, and then to finally see it.”

Linda Shusterman, a ceramics and mosaic artist-in-residence at Perkins, said that her experience was enriched by the inclusion of multiply disabled children in the project.

“It’s one area where arts can really level the playing field,” she said. “The process joins the kids. They have time to just be creative.

In making the stepping stones and tiles, said Karen Chigounis, director of arts education at Perkins, “kids who weren’t having the most success academically” had an important opportunity to excel at a non-academic task.

“These victories are so vital,” Chigounis said.

At the dedication ceremony for the rain garden, which was held last month, Allen Willoughby, executive director for Perkins Center, told students at Zane North that the creative experience would connect them to the larger world around them.

“It’s going to change,” Willoughby said. “Every time you come here it’s going to be a little bit different. Remember it’s going to need to be nurtured and taken care of.”

Superintendent Scott Oswald congratulated the students and reminded them of the enormity of their collaborative achievement.

“You guys all came together,” he said. “Look around at how many you are. You all came together to do this.”

Ricci Sheridan and Shannon DiMasi of the Zane North PTA were also thanked at the ceremony. The pair led fundraising efforts that provided final $3700 contribution to complete the project, which they say has inspired children to imagine the artistic possibilities of the world around them.

“We’ve had kids say that they want to be mosaic artists and look for things they can assemble into art,” DiMasi said.


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