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Sam Simon Goes Back to School: A Very Special Project

I totally went back to school, and I’m not even mad about it! See, when I was in school I loved my art teachers—they were always my favorites. My elementary school art teacher Ms. Olsen was so chic. She had pin straight, frosted blonde hair, wore stylish pantsuits and drove a shiny dark brown Saab. She totally influenced some of my aesthetic today. So when the fantastic Kelly Burdge, an art educator at West Villages Elementary School in Marstons Mills, Massachusetts, asked for my help on a very special project, I knew I had to do Ms. Olsen proud, so I jumped at the chance to get involved!

Mrs. Burdge’s lesson plan was designed to teach students that “every little bit counts” and “many small actions can have a larger result” via a larger than life collaborative art project. In that very spirit, my magical design studio and the team at West Villages worked together to create an interactive educational program in which 130 students in grades K-3 would all help in a small way to make a large scale mural. Here’s the concept sketch for the piece—each of the two large squares would be comprised of four 48″ square panels put together to make the composition.

Elementary School Kids Art Project Design

Before the start of school, we placed all eight of the 48″ square panels around the classroom. I then sketched the basic design onto the squares using a white chalk pencil. The smile on my face directly reflects the amount of caffeine in my system at that moment.

Elementary School Kids Art Project by Sam Simon

On the day of the project, five groups of children arrived throughout the course of the day. Each group participated in a discussion about the topic and then a hands-on portion in which everyone painted the design onto the panels in phases.

Elementary School Kids Art Project

The design was completed in five phases, each child getting to participate in the execution of the large, multi-layered design. The children below are filling in raindrop shapes using a stencil technique.

Elementary School Kids Art Project

When all of the paintings were completed, they were laid out to dry in the classroom. Don’t they look like huge, beautiful puzzle pieces?

Large Scale School Art Project

The panels were then hung on the exterior of the school building. I love how the blue color seems to pop off the warm red brick. The children now have a beautiful and lasting reminder of their collaborative art project and the lesson that when we all put in a little effort, we can create a big result! I mean, come on—we could all use a reminder to be helpful, be kind and be a friend. Small actions really can have a big effect!

Large Scale School Art Project

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