Clear Spring School Grant Awards expand educational opportunities

Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Clear Spring School received three grants in last fall to support classes offered by local professionals in their fields.

The grant from the Arkansas Arts Council funded local artist Dawn Ward, whose project to create “Discovery Books” with Clear Spring students included teaching the students a variety of art techniques and processes that could be used to make books.

“The experience of teaching at the Clear Spring School has been extraordinary and I am so proud of what the students have accomplished this year,” Ward said.

Ward said the students learned a variety of printmaking skills, studied design, painted, marbled paper and were getting ready to make their own recycled paper when the COVID-19 crisis closed the schools.

“The books were so close to being finished but I hope to find a way to have the students complete their projects at home. We had been working on binding techniques and learning to sew paper before spring break so many of the books just need finishing touches,” Ward said. “Since the books are for discovery this can also mean that student’s might use them as journals and perhaps as a way to write their recent experiences.”

Head of school Jessica FitzPatrick said the Artist in Residence program is a great way for the school to expand its arts-integrated programming.

“As a small school, our budget does not provide for a full-time art teacher but grants like this one from the Arkansas Arts Council helps schools across the state such as Clear Spring to include more art classes for their students,” FitzPatrick said.

In addition to the art grant, Clear Spring School received two outdoor education grants that funded naturalist Juanita Crider’s River Studies project. The Nature Conservancy and Kings River Watershed Partnership grants, co-funded the “River Studies” program, are this year’s primary science block for middle and high school students. River studies was a comprehensive curriculum focused specifically on the “health” of our local streams and rivers. The course offered hands-on activities including bug kits to identify invertebrates that can indicate the health of our waterways, and water testing sampling to look for potential pollutants or changes in water quality.  

“We assessed the physical, chemical, and biological parameters of Mill Branch Creek and multiple locations on the Kings River. The physical component taught students how to subjectively evaluate each habitat and riparian zone,” Crider said. “The biological assessment taught students how to collect macroinvertebrates and identify if the species were tolerant, sensitive or somewhat sensitive to pollution. Once all three assessments were complete, the students had a holistic view of the water quality at each specific location.”

In addition, both groups of students were required to prepare a presentation for the Kings River Partnership Annual Meeting which has been postponed because of COVID-19.

“We hope the students will still have an opportunity to present their findings as they all worked very hard to prepare their research,” FitzPatrick said.

The school will present the artwork and water studies projects to the parents and school community digitally on their website and in their upcoming digital newsletter.

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