Middle Schoolers Get Up A Head Of STEAM For Art Show

By: Ed Maroney

Nauset Regional Middle School students display two works they'll exhibit through June 19 around and in the community building at 44 Main St. Front, left to right: sixth graders Audrey Merchant, Bailey Kavanaugh, Sophia Easley, Chris Barber, Patrick O'Keefe, and David Sargsyan. Back: Grace Curtis, Ava Doyle, Malcolm Stewart


ORLEANS An exhibit at the intersection of the arts, sciences and the environment will showcase the work of Nauset Regional Middle School students from June 10 to 19 in and around the community building at 44 Main St. There's an opening reception for the STEAM Driven Art Show June 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Some of the material for the show was gathered by the youngsters on local beaches during a cleanup sponsored by the Friends of Pleasant Bay.

“In 30 minutes, they picked up 3,517 items,” said Brandy Jackson, technology integration specialist at the school. “They took the trash and created fish.”

Several colorful pieces of wood in the shapes of fish have clear plastic centers where pieces of beach trash are exposed. The message from the creatures is, “If you don't take it home with you, we'll take it home with us.”

As students and teachers put final touches on works last week, throwaway materials were being reborn as “upcycled” items and art. “'Upcycling' means taking something that could probably be recycled and recreating it into some useful object, like a quilt,” Jackson said.

Specifically, like the quilt art teacher Erika Dewey's class is making out of an old blanket stuffed with cheap clothing that would otherwise have been thrown away or recycled.

“The clothing is really cheap because it's made under inhumane conditions,” Jackson said of the items the class is upcycling. “We can teach kids the amount of time it takes to hand-make something, and they begin to understand the cost of cheap fashion.”

Across the corridor, art teacher Auburn Hall pointed out a student-made “tree” of plastic cups from Dunkin' Donuts. “We're connecting art and the environment,” she said. “When we put it together, it clicks.”

Jackson said teacher Reva Blauw, concerned about the use of plastic utensils at the school, wrote a grant to fund the purchase of metal “sporks.” Spurred to action by their study of India, which Jackson said is the largest user of plastic utensils in the world, sixth graders learned to sew and made fabric napkins with pockets to hold their sporks. They take the responsibility to take the utensils home to wash and bring them to school every day. “Because they made it, they do,” Jackson said. The students have inspired some local restaurants that are offering returnable metal sporks to take to the beach with takeout orders.

Elsewhere in the school's bustling lower level, students in a room with two 3D printers posed with two works, one made of pieces of hard-to-dispose-of electronic waste piled atop each other on a map of the world. The other showed the waters of the world filled with castoff materials; it's called “Ocean Debris: It's a Whale of a Problem.”

“None of the art is individual,” Jackson said of the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math) show. “It's all collaborative. If we're solving the world's problems, that requires working together.”

That process is evident in the vertical container gardens created by students. Take a tin can; cut off the top of a soda bottle, run some yarn through it, and put the cap in the can upside down; and attach the assembly to a piece of wood (in this case, one carved via the 3D process).

“When you grow food on the ground, you use fertilizer. When it rains, it goes into the groundwater,” Jackson said. “If you go vertical in a container system, all the fertilizer stays in the system and you use less.”

Jackson said there's a building in crowded Singapore with a wall whose entire surface is vertical gardens. There's a conveyor belt that moves pea shoots, bean sprouts and other greens past employees who pick their own for chefs to cook and add to rice bowls.

“This doesn't move,” she said, looking at the Nauset students' container garden creation, “but someday it will.”

Donors to the art show, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., include the Orleans Cultural Council, the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, Nauset Garden Club, the Friends of Pleasant Bay, the Center for Coastal Studies, the Cape Cod Five Foundation, and DonorsChoose.org