It’s been a busy few months! Through the Beautiful Stuff Project, Connection Lab has worked with five of the Somerville public elementary schools to carry out professional development and collaborative arts integrations projects. Each project connected to the Massachusetts STEM standards and also created opportunities for young people to contribute in a tangible way to the beautification of their school.  

Three of the projects used mandalas (radially symmetrical designs that reflect nature and appear in many cultures) as a way to introduce students to a new way to focus, relax and regulate.  In one school we used a week of library class to have every student in the school help to tile a series of mandalas that the school’s student council had designed. After giving parents and families a chance to help finish the mosaic, the mandalas were installed around one of the school’s entrances.

student council members designing the images
students tiling the mandalas during library class
the final product!

In another school, we worked with the art teacher to have the seventh and eighth graders design 30 mandalas and to have every student in the school tile them during a week of art class.  We then grouted the mosaics and installed them in frames that flank the stage in the school’s cafeteria.  Parents and families will make another mandala to hang in the entry hallway.  

one side of the stage with the mandalas installed

The third mandala project was a professional development series for school adjustment counselors. With help from Ilana Amrani-Cohen, an amazing social worker who works extensively with mandalas, we introduced two school adjustment counselors to a variety of techniques for integrating mandalas into their clinical practice with students.  Ranging from games and drawing to creating temportary mandalas from objects and sand, the sessions with Ilana were followed by training on mosaic techniques. The adjustment counselors then guided their students to create a large collaborative mosaic mandala that will be displayed in the school.

materials tray that the adjustment counselors created after their workshops
collaborative mandala in process

A fourth project was developed in response to questions that a kindergarten class had been asking the librarian about how books are made.  To demystify the process we did two different projects together. First, each of the kindergarten classes created a class zine.  In a first session each student designed a personal page with words, collage, drawings and stickers.  When we met again they each received photocopies of the pages that they and their classmates have made, and they bound them together into a zine, making and coloring covers for them too.  In a series of sessions the following week, the kindergarteners and the second graders had a chance to be authors and illustrators, creating the large pages of a storywalk of their own story.  One class developed the characters and brainstormed storylines, another selected a story and wrote the words, another brainstormed illustrations, then another drew them in pencil. The last two classes lettered the pages and painted in the pictures.  The storywalk is now hung in the library for all students and parents to see.  

lettering the pages
one page painted and ready to go

The last school project was a collaborative alphabet mural made out of recycled materials by the preschoolers and Kindergarteners at the city’s early childhood center. Each class made one section of what looked like a quilt, gluing recycled objects into the shape of a letter. The letters were all attached to a backer frame and hung in the school’s hallway for everyone to enjoy.  

gluing umbrellas onto the “U”

See why we’ve been too busy to post any pictures lately?