2018-04-12 / Life in Leelanau


Project empowers students to take their own direction
By Jen Murphy
Of The Enterprise staff

SAYING IT with pictures. Northport sixth grader Keeley TwoCrow concentrates on a self-portrait drawing. 
Photo by Jenny Evans SAYING IT with pictures. Northport sixth grader Keeley TwoCrow concentrates on a self-portrait drawing. Photo by Jenny Evans Balance is key.

Northport Public Schools students are learning just that thanks to art teacher Jenny Evans.

The latest challenge placed before third through 12th graders was a 30-day drawing challenge. Evans said students were asked to evaluate what they wanted to do with their 30 hours of drawing as well as what they would do with the work once completed. What would they create, given the choice, for a final project to display in the “Pictoralization” exhibition?

That’s where balance comes in. Students have some direction, but they have autonomy as well.

It’s called choice-based learning.

“Choice-based learning has a way of giving the students a voice,” Evans said. “When we shift the pressure off ourselves to give an assignment and urge the child to pursue their own creative aspirations, it is easier to hook them and get them excited. It also can be harder for them because so much of schooling these days is a teacher telling a student what to do and the student doing it.

“If we want to create children that are self- motivated, inventive, creative and pursuers of dreams ... sometimes we have to have a couple days of discomfort as we create and plan our next big invention. In this case, it is a work of art for a gallery show that is taking place in a tiny little school at the tip of Leelanau County.”

Tenth grader Hayden Gregg, an honors student who serves as treasurer of the National Art Honors Society, has been up to the challenge.

Upon completion of his 30 drawings, Gregg decided to shred them and construct a cave with the shredded materials.

“I’ve gotten very good at shredding paper,” he said. “I knew I wanted to do something with shredded paper for a large part of the planning.

“It actually originated from a comedy skit about a paper shredder I saw on YouTube. The cave idea was more inspired from objects that use small rooms or closed spaces to further viewer interaction, as a big part of my project is performance-based.”

He added that his biggest struggle was getting all of the drawings completed on time.

And Evans would agree that’s not an easy task.

“Thirty hours of drawing — wrap your mind around that for a second,” she said. “What an incredible display of persistence, commitment, dedication and perseverance.”

Although it’s a lot of work for the students, quite a bit of work is required for the teacher who pushes her students in this way. Evans says she changes her curriculum each year to “keep things fresh and lively for both my students and myself.”

Whatever direction the student wants to go, she will often follow.

“If a student wants to set paint on a piece of plastic stretched over a subwoofer and photograph the paint bouncing around to the beat, I will help them achieve this,” she said. “If they want to burn different chemicals to create different hues, and then take these hues and do an art piece with them, I will let them do that as well.”

In addition to a shredded paper cave, student Nahshon Eggleston is making a ceramic urn to hold the ashes of his 30 drawings. The burning of the drawings will be filmed and the video will play during the gallery display alongside the ashes held in the handmade urn.

With all of these creative juices flowing, Evans faces a challenge of her own.

“It is quite a shift as a teacher,” Evans said.

Interested in seeing for yourself?

The Pictorialization gallery opening on April 13 at 10 a.m. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet and greet artists and to see performances.

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