Tearing into Art

Paper mural bears plenty of fruit

The walls at Mid-Valley Elementary seem alive with student art work.

Whimsical masks greet the visitor, along with drawings, collages, and life-sized whale and porpoise figures. Stapled to one wall are “Wacky Books,” with divided pages for multiple story lines, and octopi in a kelp bed.

And a Harvest theme is tucked away above a counter and sink in one of the “pod” areas shared by multiple classrooms. The scene bears first-graders’ interpretation of the natural wonders surrounding the school.

Parent and artist Adele Hammond calls it “a communal project,” with kids taking the lead as they tear colored paper and glue it to a bulletin board to depict animals, pears and apples, sunflowers and pumpkins, and other images laid out before a snowy Mt. Hood.

The students, in Kelly Benjamin’s class, work in groups of six and take their work very seriously.

In minutes, a gray bunny with bright pink ears and a flying squirrel emerge where a blank bulletin board had stood. Fabian Munoz crafted the squirrel and Jessica Gifford, Vanessa Morga and and Alonzo Magana combined on the rabbit.

“I like tearing the paper,” said Amanda Montufar. “It looks cool when you tear it. I think it’s about a pumpkin patch,” said Amanda, who pointed with pride to the chunks of brown she glued to the board.

“That’s the ground,” she said.

Such individual contributions to the class-wide effort are what it’s all about, Hammond said.

“The kids came up with the idea of how to show each part of the mural,” Hammond said. She did the general sketch and painted in snow fields and other selected details. The students painted one-foot squares of paper in bright and earthy colors, some rippled, some monochrome, and then cut them into shapes such as apples and pears, or tear them into chunks as they realize their images.

“They enjoy the physicality of the tearing of paper and giving things shape,” Hammond said.

“It started with an idea and will evolve into what it becomes. It takes on its own life. The kids had ideas of their own,” she said.

For example, one child making fruit demurred from green paper, saying, “pears can be brown, too.” Children had similar ideas in varying the colors of sunflowers.

“It’s not about the end product. It’s about the process,” Hammond said.

“It’s a collage of animals, color and nature, and we work all that into problem-solving, such as what colors make up which animals,” Hammond said.

“The idea is to connect them with what’s going on in nature and then to have a group effort to produce the mural,” she said.

The project addresses the art curriculum themes of space, texture, line, and shade.

“It’s also about working together and sharing energy for the whole idea,” she said.

Like a sunrise changing the land’s hues, or the evolution of summer into fall, the picture changes and Hammond likes the fact that the children can see it as a work in progress.

“They see the results of their work from the previous week, and it’s building on that,” she said.

Meeting kids’ artistic needs is an important part of school, according to Hammond. Class sizes and budget cutbacks call for people with expertise to help teachers teach the arts, she said.

“This increases the amount of time the kids can spend in an area that would otherwise get a back seat,” she said.

Benjamin said Hammond brings important knowledge to share with the kids.

“We would do something in arts but without her, it wouldn’t be so articulate,” Benjamin said. “The best part of it is that the kids are enjoying it.”


Mid-Valley principal Gail Lyon notes that contributions such as artist Adele Hammond’s are part of an overall attempt to help teachers integrate art in regular curriculum.

“Adele, like other parents who are real artists, is giving teachers a better handle on how to teach art to kids,” Lyon said.

Hammond’s work is in addition to artists who come in through Artists in Education, PTA, and the Equal Arts Grant (program), in which each school gets an artist to work with three teachers to show them how they can teach art.

Lyon said, “the community of artists has been very supportive in sharing expertise with teachers.”

The district has an adopted art curriculum that matches the statewide Certificate of Initial Mastery standards, but since most teachers aren’t art specialists we welcome all the help we can get from the community.“

She said Hammond will work with first graders this year, then that teacher gets to see what she’s doing and pass that on others.

“So there’s a mushrooming affect and teachers feel comfortable with the art part of the cirruculum,” Lyon said.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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