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MUSD program pairs high school art students with elementary pupils
art explosion

Isabel Montoya loves art.

The sixth-grader at Lincoln School relishes any chance that she gets to turn an ordinary classroom assignment into an artistic one – whether that means adding colors, drawing characters, or putting her own unique flair into the work that she produces.

So when she got the chance to participate in an after school art program known as Art Explosion – which is only in its second year and is growing in leaps and bounds – she jumped at the opportunity.

“It’s fun and there are lots of things to learn,” said Montoya, sitting with a group of her friends in a classroom after school on a Friday. “I like to make things for my friends, and I have fun – I’m going to keep coming back to this.”

Last year Lathrop High School art teacher Erika Chapman started the program in elementary schools after realizing in her day-to-day teaching duties that her students were coming into the art class without even a cursory knowledge of the foundations of art.

What if, she thought, there was a way to instill that foundation before they arrived?

Art explosion was born.

With the backing of district administration and other art teachers throughout the district that make recommendations for high school students that were willing to tutor younger children, the program started last school year at a handful of sites and has grown significantly since it was first introduced – working towards full implementation at all school sites at a pace that not even Chapman could have expected.

The end result, she said, are students that have a better appreciation for art because they understand how it works – from the differences in media and styles to the way that colors mix together.

“This is something that we want to grow – we want to expose as many students to art as possible,” Chapman said. “Our elementary school teachers do a great job of implementing art in the classroom, but they’re already responsible for so much – finding time for art-specific lessons would be hard.

“The elementary school students love working with the high school kids – they look up to them – and for the high school art students, they learn art on a different level by teaching it. It’s truly something that benefits everybody, and I’m grateful for all of the support it has received.”

Sierra High School senior Mellyn Bingham got in on the ground floor with the program and has watched it and the interest in it grow while helping to facilitate that growth – working with kids twice a month and receiving art supplies for the time that invests in the program.

“Art is a way that you can express yourself,” Bingham said. “By doing this you awaken a part of your mind and develop that part of your mind a little bit more.

“It’s a chance to see things a little bit differently, and I hope that the students that participate get the opportunity to learn just that.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.