Teens build character with mural<br>

Photo by Bonnie Stevens

Covered with powder from making clay for the huge ceramic mural are art teacher Danielle Emerick, left, ELL teacher Stacie Zanzucchi, 9th grader Orlando Esquivel, CCC ceramics instructor Don Bendel, 9th grader Brandon Peaches, 12th grader Francisco Sosa and 9th grader Carlos Calderon.

“It’s like cutting up a giant sheet cake, frosting the pieces with a beautiful design and then putting them all back together again,” said CHS art teacher Danielle Emerick.

The mural is part of a larger intensive English effort, Art and Literacy Come Alive in 2005, concocted to improve student achievement by integrating literacy, art, drama and technology.

“It’s very encouraging to see the students so enthusiastic,” said CHS Principal Dave Roth. “Anytime we can tie in literacy and get students involved, it’s great.”

Coconino Community College associate ceramist faculty member Don Bendel and college students from Northern Arizona University and CCC will be helping to mold the high school students’ ideas into a comprehensive work of art.

“I like to work with groups of students because something like this requires a form of teamwork,” said Bendel. “Everybody has to work together, mainly because when the students are done, the result has to look like one unified effort. They’ll be really proud of it because they’ll all have had some part to do and they’ll sign their names to it.”

In all, some 237 students, 14 teachers and four professional artists are involved in this non-traditional, semester-long approach aimed at helping ELL students stay connected with school through a sense of purpose and belonging.

“Many of our English Language Learners really struggle with writing and reading, which becomes a barrier to their academic achievement,” said ELL teacher Stacie Zanzucchi. “By engaging the students through art, we are working to overcome feelings of frustration and isolation. Ultimately we are striving to keep students in school.”

Nearly 15 percent of CHS students are English Language Learners. Of those, 50 percent are Hispanic, 48 percent are Native American.

The high school designed a similar, but smaller, project last year through a mural painted by ELL students.

“When we evaluated the whole project, many of those involved had been identified as high risk students because of their frustration level with the language barrier,” said Zanzucchi. “We witnessed students from different cultures working together to achieve the same goal. It was really a beautiful collaboration. The kids developed a sense of accomplishment and enjoyed the process. Attendance increased; in fact, we had to kick some of the kids out at 7:30 at night.”

Other components of this year’s project involve mask making, design through computer technology and photography. All elements will be showcased as the students display, read and perform for their parents at 6:30 p.m. April 13.

Project sponsors include the Coconino County Superintendent’s Office and the Flagstaff Unified School District Bilingual Office. It utilizes CHS enrichment funds.

For more information, contact Zanzucchi at 773-8236.

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