When you see the stunning works of art that fill the lower school gym, it seems a stretch to believe they were created by elementary school children.
These are no ordinary finger paintings or simple clay pots. They’re the special Gala Class Projects, an annual tradition at Dallas International School that lets students create original works of art that reflect the country they’re studying throughout the academic year. This year’s projects reflect the color and vivacity of Jamaica.
Working together as a class, and under the supervision of teachers and parents, the resulting pieces are truly something to behold. But they’re also an excellent vehicle for learning.
“The kids learn many things about the country of the year as the project is done around it, depending on the execution of the project,” said Diana Darwish, a DIS parent who helped coordinate the projects. “They learn new methods to create art, they become more creative and they learn that when each of them contributes to something they can create a unique and international piece of art.”
The creative process begins with parents who volunteer to act as class project leaders. They then sit down with teachers and brainstorm artistic ideas, eventually resulting in a solid plan. The project leader then takes on full responsibility of executing the project, while the teacher prepares the right environment for making the project, as it can take up to several hours. The teacher divides the classroom into groups: one group works on the project while the other continues their daily classwork, then switch. The students are the artistic stars, as they put the idea to paper, canvas, sculpture or whatever form their project takes.
Ms. Darwish said that the projects are especially beneficial to the DIS community in three ways.
“First, it’s a learning experience for the kids that exposes them to art and the country of the year,” she said. “It’s also a learning experience for parents that connects them to teachers and classes as well as other parents. It’s also a financial benefit as the projects are sold at the Gala and they turn out funds for the school.”
The pieces are entered into a special auction at the Gala, and bidding for the projects tends to get quite competitive.
“I think the community members learn about the different backgrounds that the projects were created in and they learn to appreciate that they were made with love by small hands,” Darwish said. “It’s the hands of their children and they become emotionally attached and the project becomes priceless in their eyes.”
When these works find their eventual homes, the yearly process is complete. Everyone in the community benefits, but Ms. Darwish says it always comes back to the students.
“You can just see their excitement when the teachers announce that it’s time to work on the project,” she said. “The love and excitement of the kids when you see them working on the project is so special and unique.”