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Learning about freedom one tissue at a time

By Carolina Astrain
Oct. 5, 2013 at 5:05 a.m.
Updated Oct. 6, 2013 at 5:06 a.m.


THE TEKS

Here's the part of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills that includes "Freedom Week" as part of the state's curriculum requirements:

•  "Each social studies class shall include, during Celebrate Freedom Week as provided under the TEC, 29.907, or during another full school week as determined by the board of trustees of a school district, appropriate instruction concerning the intent, meaning and importance of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, in their historical contexts. The study of the Declaration of Independence must include the study of the relationship of the ideas expressed in that document to subsequent American history, including the relationship of its ideas to the rich diversity of our people as a nation of immigrants, the American Revolution, the formulation of the U.S. Constitution and the abolitionist movement, which led to the Emancipation Proclamation and the women's suffrage movement."

Source: Texas Education Agency

His fingers slid across the soft blue tissue.

Fourth-grader Kaden Jones, 10, studied the material for a few seconds then placed the tissue onto a papier-mache mural.

His contribution to the campuswide project, a square of tissue, now rests within a collection of ceiling tiles with the word "freedom" inscribed over the image of the Statue of Liberty and the American flag.

"Freedom means you have the right to doing anything you want," said the Torres Elementary School student. "Pretty much like going to church, what you believe in, what you eat, stuff like that."

The project was part of "Freedom Week," which ran between Sept. 16-23.

Art teacher Kecia Garcia leaned over to see the progress her students were making.

Garcia unfurled a smile bordered by short blonde hair.

From pre-K through fifth grade, almost all of the school's students - except for those who were absent on the day they were assigned to work on the project - contributed to the "Freedom Week" paper mache project.

Torres is one of four elementary school campuses at VISD with an active art program.

Garcia is the only certified art teacher - meaning she has a bachelor's degree in the field - teaching at the elementary school level.

The walls of Torres Elementary School are covered by giant canvases painted by students from years before.

"We talked about social studies and tied the project into their lessons for the week," Garcia said. "I wanted to take on a project where everyone could be equally successful."

VISD's new Fine Arts Director Kenneth Peach said he's made it a part of his mission to bring more certified art teachers to VISD's elementary school campuses.

"There is study after study that shows that the arts benefit students in the long run, especially those that are at-risk," Peach said. "Ultimately, I would like to have our students pursue music and art at all of our elementary school campuses, and we're working to achieve that with whatever means available."

The program at Torres would be a shining example for other campuses to follow, Peach said.

Before starting the project, Garcia considered going with hand prints but ultimately chose to steer away from the cliche.

The tiles used were originally meant to be discarded, but Garcia chose to repurpose them into the Freedom Week mural project.

"I love how the tissue looks like stained glass," Garcia said. "Some of them will walk by and tell you exactly where their tissues are at."

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