Greenfield students keep their creative juices flowing with studies of water
A mural painted by students in the Federal Street School over the summer spans the corner of a stairwell.
GREENFIELD — As students and teachers cross the second-floor landing at the Federal Street School this year, they will see a new 22-foot-by-4-foot mural depicting pond life.
The painting, located beside the main office, is a collaboration of students from kindergarten to Grade 3 who participated in the summer school program, “Water, Water, Water Everywhere.”
“It was fun. I painted part of the blue sky, and ants using my thumb,” said Thaddeus Taggart, 6, who will enter the first grade at Federal Street.
For four weeks this summer from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Mondays through Thursdays the students applied what they learned in the school year to real life projects. Taggart was one of 40 to 50 students who spent the summer learning about water — its properties and uses as part of the after-school and summer program run by the Collaborative for Educational Services at the elementary school.
The collaborative is a Northampton-based nonprofit that works with schools in the Pioneer Valley to create and improve educational opportunities both in and out of the classroom.
The collaborative works with the Federal Street School and Greenfield High School. It is run with two separate grants that provide $80,000 to $90,000 to each of the schools for three years. The grants are half-way through their three-year cycles.
Throughout the school year, high school students focus on math while the elementary school focuses on literacy.
During the summer, the program allows for high school students to engage in work force development skills. This summer, the high school students worked with teachers at the Federal Street School as mentors for the young children.
“Some high school students haven’t had part-time work. (Mentoring) can be a form of work force readiness,” said Chris Taggart, the director of the grant program at the Collaborative. Taggart is also father of Thaddeus.
Elementary students continued to focus on literacy this summer, researching, writing and applying what they learned about water.
“It sparked the interest in a way to get kids involved with something meaningful in the environment,” said Shelly Clark, the collaborative site coordinator for Federal Street School.
The program tied in field trips to the Green River Swimming and Recreation Area and the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls.
“For the younger kids, it was important for them to build connections in the school community and in the larger Greenfield community,” Clark said.
All 10 teachers tied their lessons into the one theme.
Art teacher Tina Clark asked students to research water and focus on what they had been learning in the school year.
Specifically, the kindergartens focused on insects, the first graders learned about monarch butterflies, the second graders focused on pond and aquatic life and the third grade learned about lizards and amphibians.
The students then took their ideas and collaborated on how they would transform the pond life into a mural.
While the older students did the finer details, the younger students worked on the bigger sections like painting the blue of the water.
“It was a huge collaboration,” Clark said. “Kids this age are used to making an art piece and taking it home. They had to work together on this and it is for the school community.”
The summer program helps address summer learning loss — the atrophy of academic skills and loss of knowledge over the course of summer vacation, Chris Taggart said.
The collaborative uses a research-based survey tool to measure learning in the summer and school year for the students. While the survey results imply that the program is having a good impact on summer learning loss, Taggart said he would have to compare MCAS data between students in the program and those who are not to get actual hard data.