To cap off a seven-year participation in an art initiative, Steve Edwards's Framing Your Success, Valley High School students and staff took part in special projects over the course of the last two years.
Framing Your Success is geared at engaging learners and improving learning by immersing them in problem-based learning lessons. During the process, classrooms "became places of active engagement as students took charge of their own learning by using WVDE learning standards for developing skills and building relationships in a collaborative environment differentiated for each student," said George Sumner, curriculum specialist and technical integration specialist for Fayette County Schools.
Over the last two years, Sumner said, Valley High embraced an overarching topic as the foundation for a school-wide project that saw students involved in activities which gave back to the Upper Kanawha Valley community. In the 2017-18 school year, the scope of the project was centered on "How the community has influenced Valley High School." This year, it was "How the school can impact the community."
Both years culminated with projects in which the entire school was involved in the process, Sumner said. Research, development, planning, collaboration, cooperation and creating led to their vision becoming reality in two large murals that students created next to City Hall in Smithers (last year) and on Third Avenue in Montgomery between the barber shop and video store (this year).
According to Sumner, the details encapsulated in the murals "address diversity, community impact, heritage and a hope for a future where we all contribute to better our community."
Classes on all grade levels and content collaborated to work out the details:
• Math, by figuring out how to transform the idea from paper to the side of large buildings, as well as how much supplies were needed.
• Science classes, by looking at the chemical mix for paint to bond.
• Liberal arts classes, by exploring the heritage and verbiage needed to allow the artwork to have deep impact.
• Every class was involved both years to get all stakeholders involved.
Additionally, to mark the last year for Valley High School, classes this past year added two other projects to the murals: a time capsule of the heritage of schools in the Upper Kanawha Valley, and a museum display of the history of Simmons, Montgomery, Gauley Bridge and Valley high schools to be on display in the YMCA and other area venues.
Sumner said Valley Elementary joined the PBL projects this year, as the schools aimed "to became one in making a difference in genuine learning." VES teachers had students work through interviews research, charting and creating displays to contribute to the museum and time capsule to help preserve local school history.
Susan Ricker, a Valley high and middle school art teacher, said her classes and other project participants utilized PBL to "renew, inspire and invigorate the Upper Kanawha Valley with art."
According to Ricker, art lessons were focused on the murals in the community.
The first year, students researched how art can impact growth in towns and cities through the beautification process of murals. Valley artists had "voice and a choice" in the mural location, concept and topic from conceptualization to completion. They identified and evaluated the ways in which art can make a community grow. This past year, the school's impact on the community was featured.
Young artists from VHS impacted the communities of Smithers and Montgomery with the mural-making process, Ricker noted. Even though Valley art students led the design and idea concepts for both murals, they received local support from artists and community leaders such as Eric Thompson, Mayor Anne Cavalier, Chuck Nunley, Lisa Sodder, Nancy Lane and Bernice Deakins.