Students create, prepare for journey to Enchanted Forest at USC
After a year of collaboration, Room 4 students received word that some celebration was finally in order: Their interactive super graphic mural was installed at a new lab within the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy dedicated to researching Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in children.
Plans began for the mural last year, when Mirman parent Kristan Andrews, a film and television production designer, was approached by USC's Dr. Grace Baranek, the Associate Dean, Chair, and Mrs. T.H. Chan Professor of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy and leader of the Baranek ASD and Neurodevelopment Lab. "When Dr. Baranek approached me about creating a mural for her childrens' neuroscience laboratory I thought it might be fun to involve the kids at Mirman," said Ms. Andrews.
"Ms. Hellstrom immediately understood what a unique opportunity this would be for the kids to have an empathetic discussion about autism spectrum, sensory awareness and to help create an inviting and engaging piece of art. As a designer myself, I think it is important to show how art can have a practical application and is often very collaborative. And in this case, the art actually supports and expands the scientific study, which is pretty exciting!" Ms. Andrews added.
Art Teacher Patter Hellstrom and Assistant Art Teacher Giovanni Zelaya led the Second Grade class last year to first create elements for the forest in Photoshop. Working with STEM Director Jeffery Flagg, Mobile Learning Support Specialist James Fonteneaux, and Lower School Technology Integrationist Amy Heppe in order to support tech aspects of the project, students iterated many drafts of the project.
"We chose the theme and the theme really provided a great springboard for imaginative drawing and thinking and color-combinations along with interactive pieces," said Ms. Hellstrom of the vibrant and magical piece.
Along the way, the scope of the project shifted to the needs of its audience and the whimsies of its designers. Some student drawings were made into plush toys adding a tactile quality for the young children engaged in the lab. This semester, students added elements to the pond. The magical creatures were manufactured into magnets to add excitement to a magnetic paint pond.
With their artwork officially in place, the students are planning a trip to see their work in action. They'll follow up with a celebration at Two Bit Circus, the interactive STEAM carnival run by Mirman Alum Eric Gradman '87-'93.
Ms. Hellstrom was very pleased with the end result of the project, but was equally effusive about all the hard and meaningful work it took to come to fruition. "Our students understood the specific challenges of the children coming to the lab and thought deeply about senses and how we experience our senses. This collaboration also helped them become part of a team and to feel a sense of connectedness to something larger than themselves. STEAM collaboration at it's best!" she said.