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Nurturing Creativity

Prospect Primary School students practice their art under the guidance of their teacher Rhonda Douglas-Brown. The school has established a Visual Arts Department.

Prospect Primary School's recently established Visual Arts Department is busy nurturing the creativity of young minds.

Principal Gloria Pollard-Bell said that when she assumed her position some two years ago, she felt the need to establish the department to expose students to art, and to enhance learning by integrating art into all other subject areas. Such a move would also be in keeping with the curriculum established by the Department of Education.

"When I came here as principal, I noticed that the school did not have much of an art emphasis. But there was one young Caymanian teacher who was using art in her teaching," Mrs Pollard-Bell explained.

She added, "I sent this teacher, Rhonda Douglas-Brown, on training and then I set up a Visual Arts Unit and promoted her to head it."

The result is a vibrant art programme and students whose enthusiasm for learning has been re-energised. That art is an intricate part of the curriculum is evident; the school's hallways have been converted into a gallery to display students' work. The art depicts Cayman's environment, as well as curriculum subjects in a variety of media.

Mrs Douglas-Brown noted that the students are exposed to art and encouraged to use imagination in all kinds of learning areas. "We use art to teach math, sciences, language arts, social studies, culture and environmental issues."

"Some children do not have the aptitude for academics and some learn better by doing. So our approach makes them learn in a fun way, without the pressure of realizing that they are actually being taught," she said.

Apart from the hallway gallery, students also derive a sense of pride from their work being featured in tabletop displays set up outside their classrooms. Their work ranges from painting and building mosaics, to digital art and mixed media, as well as special art assignments which are really enjoyed.

However, a key part of the students' learning entails keeping them connected to the environment and being eco-friendly. They use natural products such as coconut, coral and rocks. Endangered species such as the Blue Iguana and sea turtles are recurring themes, and as Mrs Douglas-Brown noted, "We also hold firmly to the mantra, 'reduce, re-use and recycle'."

And in fact their eco-art creation is one of the children's prized displays. A watercolour on canvass, this work of art also makes use of re-cycled matter such as egg cartons, bottle covers and other material which would have otherwise been discarded.

Seven-year-old Courtney Thomas, a third grade art class student said she wants to be an artist when she grows up. "I love art," she said, "because it allows you to do exciting crazy things." Leona DaCosta, another third grader, agreed saying, "Art is like magic."

The students' art has also gone international, with nearly 80 pieces of their work being on display on the international site www.artsonia.com. The site showcases student art from over 120 countries, and Prospect Primary is the only Cayman school to have its students' efforts featured on it.

According to Mrs Douglas-Brown, the Prospect page has already received over 2000 hits. "The site is giving the students' art global exposure. They can receive fan mail, and have viewings from family and friends," she said.

And third grader Leah Archibald whose art is displayed on the site, is one of those who is proud to be on artsonia. "This allows people to see and enjoy my art," she said.

But the international exposure is just a taste. The principal's envisions continuing to expand the art programme to give students a better understanding of Caymanian culture. She said the school is seeking a sponsor to sustain and enable the proposed expansion.

Mrs Pollard-Bell also wants to schedule regular trips to the National Gallery and other art centres around Cayman to give the students a greater appreciation of art.

For further information contact: Prudence Barnes