Once Upon a Time in Southside Elementary

The Giving Coast

BY BRITTANY MATTIE SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY APR 24, 2019

Select students from Southside Elementary School celebrated storybook endings on Monday, April 22 at their Fractured Fairy Tales book party in Mrs. Waite’s class. The celebration culminated a year-long collaborative partnership with a select fourth grade class, as well as the Youth Experiencing Art (YEA!) program and three volunteer Ringling College art and graphic design students.  “I’m a full-force believer of meshing the literary world with the art world,” she says. “Art integration is so paramount in helping kids connect in a course they may struggle with academically—it allows them to blossom and flourish.”

As part of a special immersive literature unit she’s been doing for 13 years now, Mrs. Waite intermingles all the stages and elements of making a storybook. “It’s really an in-depth project to take that same storyline of a fairytale you’ve read, and escape it to add your own twist on it—that’s the fractured part of the fairytale,” she explains. Upon deciding which fairytale concept the kids wanted to lean off of, they created a new setting, new characters, new scenes and wrote a whole new “cool and imaginative” storyline. After lots of revisions, editing and typing them into a computer to make them shine, the Ringling College artists came in for the art integration portion. They worked with the fourth graders to paint each of their illustration title pages, accompanied by a lesson of background, middle ground and foreground watercolor painting. Student photography, digital animation and other visual graphics were added also, as part of the artful immersion learning to create each story's character.

Parents, media, representatives from the YEA! Program, fellow Southside educators, including Principal Jennifer Nzeza, plus Jahkori Dopwell Hall, JT Chen and Yanglu He—the three volunteer Ringling College students—all filled Mrs. Waite’s classroom along with the anxious fourth graders excited for the publication’s reveal. As Mrs. Waite walked around to each student and placed the book face-down on their desks, Ringling’s Director of Student Volunteers & Service Learning Rachel Levey-Baker thanked the fourth graders for teaching the college students a little something as well, “This experience for them is very much a learning experience, and they all feed off of your creativity,” she says. “They’re taking the knowledge they have as college art students, and just that process of having to teach it to you helps them learn as well and makes them better artists.”

With lots of exciting chatter, the kids were ready to flip over their end product. Once Mrs. Waite gave the “1, 2, 3, Reveal!”, a high-pitched unison, “Woah!” filled the classroom. Each story unfolded in glossy printed pages and encapsulated with a fun book cover, designed by Dopwell Hall—integrating characters from each fairy tale and showcasing them into a fun collage. “I like how they made it like a 3D background,” says fourth grader Alexis Dempsey. “It made all our characters come to life.”

The students each received a copy of their published class book and celebrated at the end with a cake-filled “author signing party.” Meanwhile Principal Nzeza announced to the room, “It's one of those outside-the-box curriculums that are so unique,” she says. “This is what they’re going to remember. This is something they’re going to be able to hold in their hands 10-20 years from now. They’ll be able to say, ‘Oh gosh, remember when we did this in Mrs. Waite’s class?!’ I just think it’s so special.”

Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.

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