Fifth-graders at Skillin Elementary School in South Portland are working hard this month to create an outdoor art installation using woven willow branches.

Dorson Plourde, the art educator at the school, is coordinating the effort with the help of a School Ground Greening Coalition Grant from Portland Trails.

Through this project, Plourde and his students are redefining the daily playground experience with an emphasis on creating a greener, more natural playscape in order to promote more imaginative and inventive play.

This natural structure is a gift to the school from the departing fifth-graders, who will be attending middle school in the fall. Each fifth-grade student will have a hand in creating the art installation.

In addition, this project ties into the yearlong drawing investigation the students have taken part in. Throughout the school year the students have focused on the different techniques, and illusions that media artists have used through the ages.

With this final project students are using nature to create a three-dimensional work for others to experience. The installation also allows students to explore the concept of permanence, as well as the environmental impact of art.

Plourde said his students are learning first hand that not all works of art are intended for a gallery or museum setting. They are also learning about the land art movement and the work of environmental artists, such as Andy Goldsworthy, Patrick Dougherty and Will Beckers.

The overall goal of this project is to create a work that has little impact on the natural environment, yet still changes the way in which others interact with the space, Plourde said.

– Kate Irish Collins

Fifth-grade students at Skillin Elementary School in South Portland are spending the month of May creating an outdoor art installation using woven willow branches. Courtesy photo

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