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Dec 17, 2002

Calvin Hosts Central Woodlands

When 61 fifth grade students from Central Woodlands School descended on Calvin College to dabble in clay, the visit represented one-half of an annual artistic collaboration that benefits both schools.

The students from the Forest Hills public school spent one part of their visit in the college’s art gallery, watching a pot take shape under the skilled hands of potter and art professor Anna Greidanus Probes. A second portion of the kids’ stay was spent making clay tiles under the supervision of student teachers from a Calvin arts education class. The idea, said Calvin art professor Jo Ann Van Reeuwyk, is to expose the children both to an actual arts gallery and to hands-on experience with the arts.

The children watched enrapt as Probst’s hands dampened the walls of the pot and pulled it upward. “To see them so engaged is fabulous,” said Jean Burke, a learning consultant with Forest Hills Public Schools and one of the days’ organizers.

Following the pottery demonstration, the young students toured the art gallery, which is currently exhibiting the work of the college’s art department. In a nearby art studio, the children pounded clay to the desired thinness, cut out tiles, using a paper template, and decorated them to reflect their own personalities.

“After a rich experience like this, the writing they do is quite remarkable,” said Burke of the students, who were culled from Central Woodlands’ 12 classes of fifth graders.

The unseen portion of the collaboration occurred in October when Calvin’s student teachers visited Central Woodlands’ classrooms for their hands-on experience. “My 215 (Elementary Art Education) students … are all going to become generalist teachers. One or two of them will become art teachers,” said Jo Ann Van Reeuwyk, another Calvin art professor who participated in the event. She said the visit provided the student teachers with desirable classroom time teaching art.

“It’s helping me build my self-esteem as a teacher,” said Calvin junior Lauren Acker of her time at Central Woodlands School.

The experience of helping the children personalize their clay tiles had a special significance for Kate Ellens, also a junior at Calvin and a future special education teacher. “I like it that there are no right or wrong answers. They can make it how they want it to look. The special ed students I have worked with have a definite sense of success or failure. I think this will communicate success,” she said of the project.

This is the fifth consecutive year of the collaboration, which originated through the friendship of Marrily Holladay, an art teacher at Central Woodlands, and retired Calvin art professor Helen Bonzelaar. “It’s a win-win experience,” Holladay said.

~written by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson

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Contact Phil de Haan
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