Lance Hiltz
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From: Monday, May 11, 2015 10:56 AM -0600
Subject:Biology ArtsSmarts Lounge Unveiled at Watson School
Biology ArtsSmarts Lounge – Background     Why a student lounge?

Every year for the past three years Grades 4-12 students have participated in a student survey called “Tell Them From Me.”  This survey is used by the school and school division to anonymously gather important information from students.  The survey provides students the opportunity to express what they want to see in the school.  Over the past few years, students have expressed a strong desire for a lounge space.  Our students work hard and advocated for an area they could relax and socialize in.  

At the start of the 2014-2015 school year, I challenged my staff to find new ways to show our students how much we care about them.  Being a safe and caring school is important and I wanted the staff to find new ways of making connections with our students. We discussed the Tell Them From Me survey results a few months later and teacher Ms. Marea Olafson saw an opportunity to merge the students’ desire for a student lounge with my challenge to show students how much we care about them, as well as infuse learning into this project.  Ms. Olafson drew on her experience and knowledge with ArtsSmarts projects and applied for a grant.  For this project, Watson School was awarded a $10,000 grant!  This was greatly celebrated, for an opportunity like this – a staff member with the knowledge and talent to pull off a challenge like this with the financial means to actualize the vision – is rare.  

Ms. Olafson included Craft Artist Mr. Jay Kimball in the project and together with the students from Biology 30, Visual Art20/30, and ELA B30 created a vision for a Biology themed student lounge.  The Human Systems unit of study was chosen as a thematic and instructional focus.  All Biology and Visual Art students were tasked with representing information from human systems in the lounge.  ELA B30 students were tasked with documenting the process and making literal and metaphorical connections to the project’s human systems focus and our school’s four core values: caring, cooperation, responsibility, and respect.

Today [May 8] is reveal day and I couldn’t be more proud of my staff and students for coming together and creating this unique, inspiring, informational, and comfortable space for our students to use as a lounge.  What used to be an under-utilized, utilitarian space is now a vibrant, engaging space that students for years to come will be able to enjoy and be inspired by.  

Many heartfelt thanks go out to Ms. Olafson for taking up my challenge, conceiving the project, and seeing it through to completion; to Mr. Jay Kimball for lending his heart, mind, and hands to this project and for his gentle, yet effective way of engaging and teaching students; and to our fantastic students who joined this journey and learned about Biology, Visual Art, and themselves along the way.  We also can not forget to thank ArtsSmarts for providing us with the financial means to actualize Ms. Olafson’s vision – thank you for supporting cross-curricular learning and ultimately our students!

- Mrs. J. Bergerman