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Farmington teachers take creative approach to online learning

Students use supplies found at home or in nature to complete art projects
Rachel Lodwick, an elementary school art teacher, has gotten creative with her art assignments, including asking students to create work out of laundry.

FARMINGTON – Melissa Souers had teaching down to an artform. The Vista High School teacher had lesson plans mapped out and assignments charted. But with New Mexico public schools working remotely for the rest of the school year, Souers and others are having to adapt to online platforms.

“I’ve been doing this long enough that I know what I’m doing,” said Souers, who has taught Intro to Theater for six years. “Now, I’m having to explain things in a different manner. Instead of physically showing them a concept, I’m explaining it with words.”

Souers, who also teaches advanced theater classes, said she recently spent six hours writing a lesson plan that would normally have been an interactive class.

It’s been especially hard on her students, who had shows planned but had to cancel them as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The shows – written, produced and acted by her students – will be rescheduled for August or September.

Rachel Lodwick, a teacher at Animas Elementary School and Esperanza Elementary School in Farmington, also had to adjust how she is teaching art classes for her elementary students. Lodwick said there is an online discussion board students use to post the artwork they make at home.

“There’s a lot more choice involved,” Lodwick said. “I don’t know what kind of supplies they have at home. The main thing is they have to make art with what they find.”

Lodwick suggests students make art out of unconventional materials, like what they find in nature, household supplies and even laundry. She even had a fourth grade student post her own instructional video teaching classmates how to fold origami.

“It’s very therapeutic to make something and take their mind off of what’s going on,” she said.

The focus on providing a spark of creativity, no matter the circumstances, runs throughout the Farmington school district.

“Several families have commented that it’s great for students to continue having that creative outlet to process some of the feelings and emotions that they’re going through,” said Daniel Fear, fine arts coordinator for the Farmington Municipal Schools.

The district, which recently was designated a “best community for music eduction” from the National Association of Music Merchants, has been providing first through 12th grade students with laptops for several years.

This familiarity with the online learning platform for both students and staff has been beneficial in creating a more seamless transition to online-only learning for the past month, said Fear and several teachers.

“It wasn’t as much of a transition because we were already familiar with it,” Lodwick said.

Although students are provided laptops from the school district, they still might face barriers accessing the internet or face an unstable home life.

Two of Rachel Lodwick’s students display artwork they made out of materials they found in nature. Lodwick is an art teacher at Animas Elementary School.

“I have about 20 kids that I haven’t heard anything from,” Souers said. “I don’t know what the home situation is.”

While all of the school activities have been canceled until further notice, Fear said there has been talk of some of the art classes creating an online portfolio or online art show for students to show off their artwork to the public.

Souers and Lodwick said one of the hardest adjustments has been not seeing their students every day or having the in-person energy and feedback while teaching.

“I could be having the worst day and they could make me laugh,” Souers said. “I miss them. I miss being around them every day.”


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