Elementary students in Great Bend USD 428 have been creating inspired art for the Sept. 23 launch of the school district’s 2016-2017 One District One Book citywide reading program. This year students will be given copies of “The One and Only Ivan,” a Newberry Medal-winning book by Katherine Applegate.
“Ivan” is based on the real-life story of a silverback gorilla who spent 27 years in a shopping mall in Tacoma, Washington, isolated in a 40 by 40 foot concrete mall enclosure. In the book, Ivan learns to finger paint and uses his artwork to communicate with the outside world.
USD 428 started its One District One Book last year with “The World According to Humphrey,” the story of a fictional hamster. Once again, elementary students across the district will be reading the same book together with “The One and Only Ivan.”
Students saw a preview of the book cover last year in art class and created posters to promote the program. This year art instructors Melissa Watson and Shannon Wedel incorporated “The One and Only Ivan” into student art projects.
“In first grade classes at all five elementary schools, students have been creating a mixed media project inspired by Ivan and are having a blast!” Watson said.
A story of perseverance
In the book, Ivan has to go through many failed drafts and be persistent to succeed in sharing his message through art. He has to keep practicing and problem solving in order to build skill. Eventually, Ivan learns to finger paint not just what is in front of him, but from an image in his head to help save a friend.
“Art really encourages self-expression and creativity by allowing exploration and the possibility of different outcomes. This teaches students to problem solve and make decisions. I think that is so beneficial for students. I’m so excited to connect literature and art and find ways to really integrate Ivan into my lessons,” said Watson.
Ivan isn’t the only character in the story to use art to express ideas. Julia, a girl in the story, draws pictures of Ivan to express herself and communicate with her gorilla friend.
“I hope art allows our students to connect with each other, and bounce ideas off one another,” Watson said. “I believe common art experiences and a community-wide shared story will enhance their awareness of others and respect for each other.”
All public school students in grades K-6 will be given a single book to read with their families after the Sedgwick County Zoo helps USD 428 kick off this year’s One District One Book on Sept. 23.