It’s been a school year like no other with the coronavirus pandemic closing schools in March forcing teaching and learning to move online for the spring semester through the end of the year. Nobody imagined the hurdles we would encounter transitioning to remote learning, relying upon technology and other distance learning options that hadn’t been tried before. Our Portland and Lewiston teachers and staff rose to the enormous challenges the pandemic presented with enthusiasm and flexibility in order to bring students in all grades opportunities to continue to learn and grow. Side x Side has worked hard to support teachers during this difficult time and has made the transition from working in-person at the Portland public schools and Connors Elementary School in Lewiston to remote learning. Some Side x Side programs were already underway when schools closed their doors but our teaching artists and classrooms teachers continued to collaborate to complete or begin programs altered to fit the new remote learning model.
At Connors Elementary School in Lewiston, teaching artists Sarah Boyden and Indigo Grey continued a Side x Side program for first graders with classroom teacher Alicia Clifford and ELL teacher Louise Bradford. The program was originally going to integrate printmaking, drawing, watercolor, and collage with a life science unit on plants and animals. After school closed, the program was adapted and the Connors teachers delivered packets of art supplies and instructions to each student’s home. Students did scientific drawings of flowers and created Mother’s and Father’s Day cards using pencil and marker on cardstock.
Students in Jessie Muldoon’s Special Education classes at Reiche Community School worked with teaching artist Leah Cross on an adapted Side x Side remote learning program in May. Once again, students received packets at their homes that included instructions, crayons, watercolors, and watercolor paper. The program encouraged students to create community art in the form of a poster to hang in a window highlighting ways to stay healthy and feel connected during the pandemic.
Also at Reiche Community School, second graders in Mrs. Becker’s and Ms. DeRice’s classes participated in a Side x Side shadow puppet program led by teaching artist Nance Parker. Based on their study of sea animals, students received packets at home with directions and art supplies to design and build shadow puppets of their sea animals as well as drawing materials and watercolors to create their sea animal environments. Students then used their shadow puppet sea animals and beautiful paintings of their environments as backgrounds for short films (with help from their families at home).
At the East End Community School, second graders in Ms. Salisbury’s class participated in an adapted Side x Side journaling program led by teaching artist Laurie Downey. Students received packets at the school lunch pick up, or had them delivered to their homes, that included journals and art supplies. Working with the themes of Spring and Life at Home, they wrote and drew in their journals (example in header above).
Also at the East End, fourth and fifth graders in Mrs. Daniels class collaborated remotely with teaching artist Casey Ledoux to create a short but sweet public service announcement about staying active and healthy at home. Students researched the importance of exercise and fresh air and created their own short videos which were then combined to create one, longer fun and informative video.
Casey Ledoux also worked with third graders in Ms. Taylor’s class at Ocean Avenue Elementary School on a poetry film project which picked up where teaching artist Gretchen Berg left off with a Side x Side physical theater program that was integrated with a science and literacy unit on extreme weather and poetry. Moving from an in-person physical theater program to a poetry film program allowed Side x Side to continue working with Ms. Taylor to complete a poetry unit with her students remotely. From home, students were tasked with either writing or finding a poem, performing a dramatic reading of it on camera, and designing a green screen backdrop for their performance. These performances and visual elements were then combined into a nearly twenty-minute-long poetry odyssey!
Side x Side teaching artist Anne Ackerman collaborated with Riverton Elementary School fourth grade teacher Nicole Casasa-Blouin on a literacy and science program adapted for remote learning in May. Each student received a literacy journal kit at home containing a small notebook, a set of colored pencils, mixed media papers, a pencil, and an instruction sheet. Students used their journals to respond using drawing and writing to read along videos on the book, “Hoot,” by Carl Hiaasen.
Also at Riverton, just before school ended for the summer, students in Christine Wirth’s and Jennifer Seed’s Pre-K classes participated in a Side x Side program led by teaching artists, Meg Christie and Lisa Hicks. Side x Side purchased copies of the book, “We are Growing,” by Laurie Keller, for each student which were delivered to student’s homes along with a selection of additional books provided by the classroom teachers. Students met with their teachers and teaching artists via Zoom to engage in movement and improv activities associated with spring and growth with Meg Christie and dance activities related to “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” with Lisa Hicks.
At Lyseth Elementary School, fourth graders in Ms. St. Germain’s and Ms. Sanchez’s classes participated in a remote Side x Side program led by teaching artist Jill Osgood and integrated with a science unit on animals. From home, students studied and drew animals and then set out to hunt for natural materials to create a temporary environmental sculpture using found natural items such as leaves, sticks, bark, flowers, and rocks. Once finished, the sculptures were photographed and shared for everyone to enjoy!
Side x Side middle school programming, made possible by the Lennox Foundation, has forged ahead despite the school closures. Eighth graders at Lyman Moore Middle School participated in a Side x Side mural program led by muralist, Ryan Adams, where students explored the themes of identity and community to create a mural for the entryway of the school. The mural was mostly complete when school closed, but Ryan Adams was able to go in and add the finishing touches on his own.
Seventh graders at Lincoln Middle School participated in a Side x Side visual journaling and mural making program led by teaching artist Laurie Downey that was integrated with a unit on biodiversity. The program began before the pandemic and students used project journals to write and draw their research on animals from Maine Audubon. Although disrupted by the school closure, Laurie Downey was able to pivot to remote learning by creating digital mock-ups for the mural using student journal entries.
This summer, Side x Side is proud to partner with LearningWorks and Telling Room to bring LearningWorks students in South Portland a five-week virtual STEAM camp on agricultural engineering. Each student will receive a package delivered to their home with all the supplies needed to participate in the camp. Side x Side’s visual art component and the Telling Room’s creative writing component will help to bring to life a digital publication as the final product. This summer camp is made possible by a generous grant from the Brick and Beam Society of the United Way of Greater Portland.
It’s been a busy and eventful school year and we are excited to creatively tackle any new challenges coming our way this fall!