Hands-on learning


Lourdes_schoolby Patricia Mc glynn & Monica scibion
Sun contributing writers

UTICA — Instruction at Our Lady of Lourdes School was “kicked up a notch” this year when two exciting programs were added. From pre-kindergarten through grade six, students are enjoying new “hands on” learning experiences. Hands on as in using their hands to create beautiful pottery pieces and using their hands to communicate through sign language.

Patricia McGlynn, who holds a graduate degree in sign language from The College of St. Rose, said, “Teaching sign language to elementary-age students is both a challenge and a love.” This new language has been presented in the hope of broadening the students’ understanding and acceptance of those who communicate differently from themselves.

Classes began with the introduction of vocabulary for the different holidays and quickly expanded to include prayers and songs. The second graders recited and signed a poem during the school liturgy for All Saints’ Day, and the fifth graders impressed the congregation with signing the song “Happy Birthday Jesus” during the annual Christmas Prayer Service. During the upcoming months, the intermediate students will continue to use their new vocabulary to learn the Pledge of Allegiance, and begin conversations with one another. The primary students will learn the signs for family members, animals, colors and other everyday vocabulary.

Monica Scibior’s patience and talents have made her a favorite among the students. She has complimented her bachelor’s degree from Siena College by studying art instruction throughout college and various independent adult classes. Initially, she began teaching a pottery class during the school’s After-Care Program and this still continues. The success of that class was the precursor to adding pottery classes to the art curriculum.

Scibior collaborates with the teachers to develop artistic pottery projects that relate to specific subject materials for each class. The children have learned the origins of pottery making and the basic vocabulary of potters. Clay projects are done with instruction and demonstration in hand-building techniques. Technique instruction includes ragging, sponging, washes and stamping. Students choose a color scheme, add personalized details, and paint the ceramic bisque-fired piece.

OLOL pre-k students were delighted with their sponge-glazed oak leaf magnets. First graders built clay owls for their nocturnal animal science study. Second graders made clay leaf fossil plates, and fifth graders tackled the difficult technique of clay coil-pot building and glazed them in their own version of pueblo-style pottery designs. Third graders are currently working on an assortment of clay hand-build dishes and foods of China and Mexico for use in the school’s Annual Learning Fair during Catholic Schools Week.

Learning at Our Lady of Lourdes in Utica takes place many ways — not just through books and blackboards, white boards and laptops. Indeed, learning is also spiritual, visual, tactical and artistic. The success of these programs is evident, every day, through the eyes — and the hands — of the students.

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