The students started with newspaper, rolling it into balls. Then they made newspaper sun rays, inserting those into the balls that soon became Mexican suns. • Chocachatti Elementary School students in the CopyCats microsociety worked with art teacher Gail Sullivan and science teacher Ruth Markham to cover newspaper frames with paper strips wet with wheat paste. The final layer was plaster of paris gauze strips. • The CopyCats microsociety is offered to students in grades 3 to 5, along with a host of other options. The students have microsociety every Tuesday and Thursday. Kindergarteners through second-graders have one microsociety a year. The older children take two.
Students in the CopyCats program broaden their knowledge of art and artists by copying a variety of artists' techniques and styles. The class, Markham said, is "a lot of techniques that different artists use; study of style, culture, history."
After a lesson of color mixing, the students began painting their dried suns. Fourth-grader Isabella Mohr, 9, used pink and yellow. "Pink's my favorite color," she said. "My whole room's pink and purple." She used yellow instead of purple on her sun, though, because "pink and purple mixed together would be an ugly brown."
The microsocieties started a few weeks ago, after students were settled in their regular classes. Sullivan decided to begin with Mexican art and intends to move to Oaxacan folk art (sculptures made from wood scraps and decorated) and Panamanian molas, colorful designs made by using a reverse applique technique.
The teachers have a plan to add to the Latin American style. "We're going to get some food in," Sullivan said. She and Markham will cook the filling for quesadillas and let the students assemble them.
Isabella said she was in the CopyCats because she wants to learn about artists whom she didn't learn about when she had art for a specials class. Third-grader Madison Bonaventura, 8, said, "I hope to learn to draw, because I love drawing because it's my favorite kind of art."
Third-grader Christopher Everidge, 8, also hoped to learn more about the subject. "I haven't been to art before," he said, "and I wanted to try it. I thought it would be cool." He says he likes it a lot.
The plan isn't for the students to take their suns home, but to sell them during one of the school's Market Days. Under Chocachatti's microsociety system, students are paid with microdollars to come to school and to attend microsociety classes. They are required to use part of that money to rent their desks and pay taxes.
The students in each microsociety class get paid, Isabella explained, "the same as a real job." The students want to come to school because attendance means more microdollars.
After paying the necessary expenses, the extra dollars can be spent at Market Day. Besides what the CopyCats create, there will be things for sale from all kinds of classes.
There are usually four market days a year. The big one, Winter Wonderland, is on a December evening with parents invited. "A lot of things we make are sold," Markham said.
All of the participants of CopyCats seem to be enjoying it, students and teachers alike.
"We're having so much fun," Markham said.