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Wednesday, November 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Verve: Arts in the classroom critical at East Farms STEAM school

East Farms STEAM Magnet School resident artist Sami Perry listens Friday as Madeline Tebbe, 7, one of her students, excitedly points out her art on the wall at the Steam Plant’s Seehorn Building  in downtown Spokane. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
East Farms STEAM Magnet School resident artist Sami Perry listens Friday as Madeline Tebbe, 7, one of her students, excitedly points out her art on the wall at the Steam Plant’s Seehorn Building in downtown Spokane. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
By Jennifer Larue jlarue99@hotmail.com

Last Friday, dozens of children and their families attended an art show called “A is for Art” in the Seehorn Building of the Steam Plant. The exhibition included more than 400 works of art created by elementary students from East Farms STEAM Magnet School in the East Valley School District.

Along with a handful of volunteers, teacher and resident artist Sami Perry hung the work in one day, anticipating an excited crowd. They weren’t disappointed.

“After finding their art hanging, the students’ reactions were surprise and delight; they were so proud of themselves,” Perry said. “That was the best part and so worth all the hard work.”

Perry is all about the “A,” as in art, which was added to East Farms’ science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – curriculum. The only school like it in Eastern Washington, East Farms has received $70,000 in grants over the past three years.

“We have plenty of art supplies,” Perry said.

Through the arts, students learn creatively; by mixing mediums, art becomes science, by building works with parts, art becomes engineering, by filling space, art becomes an equation, by maskmaking and storytelling, art becomes a history lesson, and by creating portfolios and resumes for contests, art becomes real life.

“Studies have shown providing arts in school curriculums help students to learn in creative ways, which increases their abilities to grasp concepts in other subjects,” Perry said. “It also teaches problem-solving and encourages individuality.”

The exhibition included masks built around small milk jugs, paintings, drawings, ceramic pieces, and hand-pressed prints. Many of the pieces included statements written by the young artists, such as an explanation of a kangaroo mask that read, “My artwork was inspired by the Kwakiutl Indian Tribe. They had masks in animal form. I chose a tiger but it looked like a kangaroo. So instead of a tiger, I chose a kangaroo. It looked better than a tiger.”

Whether or not the children are aware they are learning anything beyond making art, some of them are aware of the benefits of art.

“Making art helps the bad things get out of your mind,” said third-grader Savannah Hernandez. “Have you been mad before? Do art. When I’m finished, I forget what I was mad about.” Hernandez hopes the ceramic mask she made might inspire others to make art.

Fourth-grader Emily Hoffman’s contemporary piece, created with pencil and a carving tool on a black surface, depicts what she described as a footless bird on a stump. “It’s a little lonely,” she said.

Sixth-grader Taya Hepler created a representation of the Steam Plant’s 100th anniversary and once won an iPad Mini for a drawing she did in the third grade. Second-grader Beau Pratt used salt for an interesting effect on his piece of birds on trees and sixth-grader Brice Hulett learned about shadows and light in his charcoal drawing of shapes.

“They’re only getting better,” Perry said. “Their imaginations are soaring.”

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