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Brittany Workman /Daily Globe Author and illustrator Gary Harbo engages sixth-graders at Worthington Middle School on Friday while describing the cartoon character he is creating.

Artistic week for District 518

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News Worthington,Minnesota 56187
Daily Globe
Artistic week for District 518
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- Although reading, writing and arithmetic are fundamental skills, they can become mundane at times.

In an effort to change the routine and expand on students' creativity, students at Prairie Elementary and Worthington Middle School had the opportunity to work with two unique artists this week.


With merely a sharpened pencil and a clean sheet of paper, author and illustrator, Gary Harbo, taught fifth- and sixth-grade students at WMS just how creative they can be.

"My motto is 'Where the pencil meets paper is where your imagination comes to life'," Harbo said. "A lot of students just need the initial encouragement to be successful. If you can get the pencil to meet the paper you can give students the ability to believe in themselves."

Harbo worked one-on-one with several students in sixth grade this week, and he also gave art lessons to each fifth grade class.

Fifth grade students currently do not have a specific art course with an art specialist, which is what prompted the Gifted and Talented Committee at WMS to seek an outside perspective for students to gain a better understanding of art.

"We want students to be exposed to as many opportunities as possible," said Kathy Craun, instructor and coordinator of the Gifted and Talented Program at WMS. "Learning from Mr. Harbo is a great way for students to discover alternative careers paths."

Harbo's career includes a lengthy list of children's books for which he has both written and illustrated.

A native of Lynd, he travels across the country giving art lessons to more than 15,000 students each year, yet he still believes his small-town Midwestern roots help him relate to and inspire students.

His art lessons not only walk students through the drawing process, but they also encourage students to think about descriptive writing process as they draw.

"A lot of students are like me -- visual learners," Harbo explained. "When I draw I'm talking to the students about the power of words. As I'm drawing a character I'm being descriptive and giving the character personality with a unique background. Some people are not literal learners. Sometimes you need to take on another approach to help draw out the creativity and connect with the student."

African dancer, Karla Nweje, connected with students in both fourth- and eighth-grade through creative movement during her residency in Worthington this week.

"I feel like there is a lot of the African American culture specifically with art, that is never seen and that really is the premise of my being a teaching artist," Nweje said of her work in Worthington. "I think America needs to be educated about why people dance. Dance tells us a lot more about people other than what they look like. Physical movement is what people look like too, and it's a subtle way of helping people look at others more deeply."

Throughout the week Nweje taught fourth-grade students the history and origins of various types of dance and hip hop. Students in eighth-grade delved into capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian form of battle dancing.

Her residency was sponsored by the Comprehensive Arts Planning Program (CAPP) which received a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.

"We noticed that our district teaches all other strands of the arts except dance," said Jeanne Mammen, co-chairperson of the CAPP committee. "We liked the fact that she (Nweje) is a dancer but also a teaching artist that is aware of the education standards and can address those standards while teaching."

"As a teaching artist with a background as an academic educator, I perceive each residency as a journey of discovery where participants become empowered to paint their own portraits," Nweje added.

Eighth-grade students had the opportunity to showcase the work this week during a performance on Friday at WMS. Fourth-grade students will present their work at 11 a.m. on Monday at Prairie Elementary.