When Pocahontas County Schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, teachers scrambled to find ways to continue educating their students outside the classrooms.
While reading, writing, math and even science can be done without too much difficulty, Green Bank Elementary-Middle School art teacher Alison Flegel was worried about how she was going to keep her students engaged and create projects for them to do.
“I can’t expect them to have paint or clay or markers, or anything at home,” Flegel said. “What do they have? And so, I thought ‘they have pencil, paper and most of them – not all of them – have Internet access.’ So then I started thinking I could do a pottery demo – that would be pretty cool.”
From that initial spark, Flegel brainstormed more and came up with a Facebook page and YouTube channel called Makers Who Inspire.
Flegel, who is a well-known potter with her own pottery studio, thought she could enlist the help of fellow artists to make videos of their workspace or studio, and either give a tour of what they do or actually lead students in a craft or project.
“I first started thinking about how they could experience other art forms and have demos from other artists,” she said. “Then I thought maybe one of the artists could do a short art project or a demo of their work, or a tour of their studio, something like that.”
Flegel set up the two social media pages and sends out emails to her students with updates on what videos to expect, as well as a brief lesson.
“I send them a daily email with an assignment,” she said. “If the artist is demoing, the students have to answer questions about the elements of art, principles of design or explain a process,” she said. “Then, artists that are actually doing a project, take a picture of their project and email it to me.”
The videos have started to pour in from Flegel’s friends and fellow artists from West Virginia, Arizona, North Carolina and beyond.
“I’ve had a really good response from people I’ve contacted,” she said. “It’s actually going to be a pretty cool resource. I’m really encouraging the artists who are participating and other teachers and families, and everyone, to just share.”
The Makers Who Inspire was a welcome idea to Flegel, who was dreading coming up with projects while the social distancing order was put in place.
“I was thinking I could give them different projects, and I wasn’t excited about it,” she admitted. “I thought, this online teaching is going to be horrible. Then once I started contacting artists and getting content, I thought, ‘Yes. I can upload these videos. This is going to work.’ Then I got really, really excited about it.”
Flegel said artists who are interested in participating may contact her through the Makers Who Inspire Facebook page. All videos must be submitted to her to be uploaded to the YouTube channel.
Along with professional and part-time artists, Flegel said she hopes students will be inspired to create their own lessons.
“The video I posted for today is my niece [Emma] who’s in fifth grade in Fairmont,” she said. “She’s already made three or four videos. It’s given her art projects to do because she’s coming up with projects and making a video. We’re discussing how she can talk about the elements of art and how she can present her project. She has artwork now that she probably wouldn’t normally be doing.
“None of my students have taken the bait yet, but I’ve been encouraging them – ‘hey, if you have an idea for a video let me know,’” she continued.
“I would like for them to start doing projects, take the leadership role.”
To watch the instruction videos, visit the YouTube channel Makers Who Inspire.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org