Today the Haggerty School in Cambridge held a celebration of its hundredth anniversary! Thankfully, the collaborative mosaic that two second grade classes made with Connection Lab and the Beautiful Stuff Project was finished in time.
Two weeks ago each of the students made a small paper collage self-portrait, and adults made portraits of a few special people from the school’s hundred-year history. They used paper heads and necks that we had prepared, and added faces, clothes and any other details that they could fit on the small rectangular backgrounds. Some students were very creative, adding their pets, jewelry, T-shirts with messages, and distinctive headbands.
Last week I was in the classroom with them to put together the mosaic. Rotating through for 20 minutes in groups of 7, each student placed their own self-portrait and then helped to glue some glass tiles in place to form the border, the letters that spell the school’s name, and the years that the school has been open. It was fun for me to see each person find their portrait and to notice what a good job they’d done at capturing a likeness of themselves with just paper and scissors.
After the session with the students I cut and glued pieces of clear glass over each of the self-portraits and finished tiling the background. The classes had chosen to add details with marker, and some of the marker spread when the glue was wet, but from a distance all of the portraits look beautiful.
Once all of the glue had dried under the glass I grouted the piece and painted the egdges with black acrylic paint.
When the finished piece arrived in the classroom the kids swarmed. Everyone pointed to where their own portrait was and excitedly showed it to their friends. I had worried a little bit that by having each student participate for only 20 minutes in the caonstrucition of the mosaic they might not feel ownership of it, but it definitely seemed from thir enthusiastic response that they did!
I’m hopeful that the portraits, while designed to represent the current second-graders, are diverse and generalizable enough that they can represent the many students who have been part of the school’s hundred year history and will continue to feel representative of the school in the future.