SENSE sketchbooks give students an outlet in more ways than one

Local News

HARRIS COUNTY, Ga. (WRBL) – New Mountain Hill Elementary has been STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) certified since 2017. They’re the only school in Harris County that is STEAM certified and one of only six statewide.

Since receiving their certification, every year their students have received STEAM journals. This year, however, New Mountain Hill Elementary art teacher Virginia McCullough decided to get rid of the composition, lined paper notebooks and replace them with empty sketchbooks called SENSE sketchbooks.

“SENSE, which is the acronym that stands for: STEAM engagement now serving everyone cause we want it to be equitable and we want it to be across the board, and we also want it to kind of treat them more socially and emotionally too during this difficult time,” said McCullough.

A goal that Jessica Burns NMHE second grade teacher said McCullough is achieving in every aspect in and outside of the classroom.

She said she has seen first hand how the students value the sketchbooks that are used to help explore their sense of self, sense of place and sense of community.

“It’s almost like their teddy bear. You would compare it to a teddy bear to a young child,” said Burns. “They need it. That’s their way to express themselves if they feel like no one’s listening or they feel uncomfortable to talk to someone, that sketchbook is such a wonderful place for them to be able to say how they feel. Just draw it out, write it out.”

In addition to the new STEAM art program, a partnership with The Bo Bartlett Center at Columbus State University has provided all 80 second grade students with art supplies. Each student received a watercolor pencil set, an oil pastel set, two quality paint brushes, two quality ink pens, and a mesh bag that fits all the supplies and the sketchbook.

McCullough said she’s seen a huge difference in the way students express themselves now that they have a blank sketchbook.

“That just wasn’t as possible with the composition notebooks that were lined,” said McCullough. “There’s a sense of ownership of developing their sense of aesthetic ability when they have that sketch book in hand.”

The blank pages are used for everything from space to engineering and designing chicken coops for their newly hatched chicks, to comparing the Great Wave by Hokusai to other works of art.

Burns said another benefit of the sketchbook is that her students now point out when they see works of art like the Great Wave in everyday life.

McCullough said her goal is to eventually get SENSE Sketchbooks in the hands of students all across the county.

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