One of this year’s Falmouth Education Foundation (FEF) grant-funded projects introduced students from Falmouth High School and Teaticket Elementary School to unique forms of art and writing, new locales, and the publishing world.
“Tidal: Migration Studies across Cape Cod and the Elizabeth Islands” is a collaboration between FHS visual art teacher Jane Baker and AP literature teacher Lauren Kenny. They have worked together on FEF-funded projects in the past, bringing together the high school students and their young counterparts at Teaticket. For this project, they included naturalists, writers, artists, and scientists from the Cape Cod community and beyond.
Last September, the FHS students traveled to Cuttyhunk and Penikese Island, and the remote visit was the first for the majority of the group, including teachers and chaperones. There they took notes, sketched, and painted on-site in an effort to experience the connection between art and nature, and as the basis for artwork and writing that would be created in response to the trip.
At Penikese the groups were joined by State Rep. David Vieira, R-Falmouth, and members of the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (which has jurisdiction over the island) to educate the students about the island’s pivotal role as a wildlife sanctuary dedicated to the preservation of common and roseate terns. Due to department regulations, only a limited number of people are allowed on Penikese at one time; therefore Mr. Vieira, whom Mrs. Baker approached about the prospective project last year, sought an exemption.
During the same month, the second-graders, equipped with binoculars and journals, visited Teaticket Park, the 10-acre public space located directly behind the school, to observe signs of migration. They were accompanied by members of The 300 Committee, Falmouth’s land trust, which maintains and oversees the park, and Mr. Vieira, whose family once owned the land. Maria Isaac, director of New England Reptile and Raptor Exhibits, later visited the elementary school with some of her live raptors, and Elizabeth Bradfield, editor and founder of The Broadsided Press, worked with both groups of students on the art of Haibun - a Japanese writing genre that combines poetry and journaling.
The project ended with the creations of two hard-bound books in celebration of their efforts. Mrs. Kenny believes the books, which she described as a “labor of love,” bring the project full-circle.
“To see the fruit of our collective labors printed, after several drafts of the Haibun, along with the complementary artwork, is the perfect closure to another wonderful collaboration,” she said.
“We all extended ourselves beyond our comfort zones, some into the written word, and some, myself included, into the world of visual art. The Haibun format is perfect for this, as it is a combination of word and visuals.”
FEF President Ellen Barol agreed.
“The books are a beautiful culmination of this extraordinary interdisciplinary project. The art and writing convey how meaningful the experiences were for the students,” she said. “It’s wonderful that they had the chance to observe the natural world closely and turn their observations into lovely artistic expressions.”
Mrs. Baker, who worked with her students in the past to a collective volume out of handmade paper, decided to use an online book company for as a way to not only share their work, but also to appropriately showcase its creative value.
“I feel having the work presented in an actual book gives a legitimacy to our efforts,” she said.
“The students seemed to take it more seriously, and asking them to edit and re-edit their writing was met with little resistance; they didn’t want to be outdone by their peers.”
Mathea Madsen was one of the FHS students who worked with Mrs. Baker and the Teaticket students to create a large mural of Teaticket Park, which was on view in March at Falmouth Museums on the Green as part of the overall project.
“I really enjoyed making the book with all of our artwork and poetry. Being able to see my thoughts and art in print made the project more meaningful,” she said. “Also, the different perspectives of my classmates alongside my own really emphasized the diversity of our experiences. We all saw and felt something different on our trip, and being able to see that reflected through our work is fascinating.”
Mrs. Kenny expressed gratitude for the funding that made the experience possible.
“FEF was beyond instrumental in this effort," she said. "I can't say enough about the opportunity to take students to another world, physically, emotionally, and logically."
--By Sarah Elizabeth Murphy