Walsh Elementary Students Practice Sustainability, Make Paper
SCHOOLS | April 16, 2018
Walsh Elementary Students Practice Sustainability, Make Paper

There’s no wasting paper for one group of elementary school students at Walsh Elementary in Pilsen.

Fourth through sixth-graders have been making their own paper using bits and pieces of recycled paper, mixed with tissue paper to add color. They’ve been carving images onto a rubber block that represent a personal memory, and then printing them onto the paper. Through the assistance of Ingenuity, a local arts education and research group, the school received a grant to help fund the paper making supplies.

Students, Naomi, left, and Isabella, right, use rubber blocks to carve out images to print.

The project has been “fun” for the students, said art instructor Tabor Shiles, adding that there’s also a sustainability element connected to this.

“We’ve been using a lot of recyclables, some of their recycled projects, like construction paper,” she said. “It’s sustainability, so taking their old projects and making something different with it.”

They’re even exploring how to use plant matter from their outdoor planting beds to make more paper.

Sixth-grader Isabella Guajardo said that she enjoys the art class.

“It’s different because we get to learn how to do carving,” said the 12-year-old. “Instead of just drawing on paper, we get to actually show it.”

For Isabella, who says she’s not a “good drawer,” this class is a good fit.

“Ms. Tabor shows us that it’s okay if you don’t know how to draw, you can still do art.”

She’s been drawing flowers as one of her memories.

“My grandfather passed away about two years ago and he loved flowers,” she said.

Classmate Naomi Perez, also 12, said the class is unique.

“I like that we get to design our own things and we’re not just copying other people’s art,” she said.

She said she’s been practicing art since Pre-K and even does it in her spare time at home. In class, she’s been carving butterflies on her block.

“I used to catch butterflies with my aunt,” Naomi said.

This is the third year of the program and each project has a print theme. Last year they focused on architecture and students printed images onto glass.

Principal Martin Ryczek said the partnership with Lillstreet Art Center has been a beneficial one.

Although the school focuses on math and science, Ryczek said the “whole child” is important and that means including an arts education.

“I started out as a music teacher in CPS. I’m a big proponent of the arts, it’s huge,” he said.

Students are gaining skills they can use throughout their lives, Ryczek added.

“They have to show some proficiency [with their work] so before they can print on their final papers, they have to have their blocks…and show that they’re ready. They’re learning to practice, check, review and revise,” he said.

The students will showcase their work at the school Wednesday, and do a paper making demonstration.