Within easy walking distance of the Peacham Elementary School are the library, the collections of the Peacham Historical Association, the town office, and a host of other historic structures and places. The setting of the school has allowed generations of students to explore, visit and develop deep connections within their community: the townspeople, their stories, talents and history.
Recently awarded a small grant from the Vermont Rural Partnership, an organization dedicated to supporting small schools throughout Vermont, these ties with the local community will further strengthen this year as part of an exciting program that will allow community members to share their talents, skills, and creativity with Peacham's younger minds and imaginations.
Three local artists have agreed to share their time and their work as part of an artist residency program. Students will learn about and create pottery, weavings and pieces of jewelry, as each artist visits once a week for a two-month period. Students will work with raw materials; digging local clay, spinning wool from local farms, and incorporating local materials into their handmade jewelry. Initially, students will visit the artists in their studios to hear and see firsthand how these materials and tools are combined with the artist's vision to produce an original piece, or product. Student mentors will be chosen to work more closely with the artist so that they can provide assistance to other students. This process will then be recreated back at school, as students learn to work with their hands, minds and imaginations. A roundtable discussion with partnering adults, student leaders, educators and visiting artists will be initiated before the project begins. This meeting will bring clarity of the groundwork needed to make the techniques of their art accessible to all students.
This transfer of skill and knowledge from one generation to the next will be well documented using digital cameras, video and student journaling. Such an opportunity to use the people and resources of Peacham, as part of a place-based learning experience, will be further integrated into other content areas. Parents and community members will be asked to lend a hand in the classroom and discover for themselves where their artistic talents lie.
In the spring, the culmination of this project will be a preview of student work at the school, and a more formal exhibition at the Catamount Arts Center in St. Johnsbury. Shared on these evenings will be: the video of the process intended to capture the relationships and insights created through this exchange (shown in one of the theaters at the Catamount facility); excerpts from journals that capture student questions, reflections, drawings, etc.; and photographs of the students, their works in progress, and their joy as part of the creative process.