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Starring Michele Nash and "Showcasing Web Sites"

"I always have been the type of teacher who gleaned resources wherever I could," observed second grade teacher Michele Nash. "The Internet turned out to be a goldmine of resources in such a profound way. As I searched for resources, I noticed Web sites that had been created by classroom teachers. I quickly realized that, not only could I glean resources from the Internet, I could share resources and ideas of my own as well. So I created my own Web site."

Nash established her site in 1996 for the specific purpose of sharing the work of students at Cumberland Elementary School in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.


"My students spent a lot of time creating wonderful items," Nash told Education World. "To have them seen only by teachers and whoever else took the time to look at the hallway displays was unacceptable. I wanted my students' work to be permanently shared worldwide, and I knew the Internet was the only way to do it."

Nash's Web site features student-created art, shares collaborative learning experiences, and serves as a resource for instruction. A highlight of the current collection is a posting of images from the students' Mother's Day project.

"Hand made gifts from my children were one of my most treasured Mother's Day gifts," recalled Nash. "What better gift than a portrait of mom, created by her child?"

The Mother's Day project was actually a spin-off of another project called Pumpkin Heads. For that assignment, students recreated their own facial features on pumpkins and held up their creations for photos!


"I thought, 'Why not use the same concept for Mother's Day, only without the pumpkin?'" Nash shared. "Instead of using a pumpkin, students were given a piece of tagboard that had the outline of a head, neck, and shoulders. They were asked to add hair, facial features, eyelashes, glasses made from pipe cleaners, a cloth neckline, buttons, ear-rings, and anything else that would make their portraits look like their moms."

The assignment was completed at home over a two-week period. The amount of time spent on the artistic creation was totally up to each child. Some students wanted the portraits to be elaborate; others did not.

"Many of the moms were tickled to see how their children view them, and most importantly, they were surprised by the creativity displayed by their children," reported Nash. "The first year my students created the portraits, it was done in school. Trying to bring in supplies without moms knowing the reason was just too difficult. Students now brainstorm together in class what could be used for hair, eyes, mouths and various other features. Once the brainstorming is over, they lightly sketch the features onto the tag board."


When it's time to add the finishing features, students take home the tag board creations and get to work. Nash says that her students have used wigs for hair, added false eyelashes, glued necklaces around the "neck," and even have embellished their portraits with tea bags as dangling earrings!

"As teachers, we sometimes get bogged down giving students too many directions, which stifles their creativity," Nash stated. "I believe in discussing the concept, brainstorming the possibilities, and then turning them loose!"

Students present the finished products to their classmates, and then they are displayed for the rest of the school. The portraits are sent home in time for Mother's Day. Nash also has used this project during the month of March, in celebration of Women's History Month. She feels it is appropriate to include moms in this annual observance because, "What women are more important in their children's lives?"

Project photos provided by Michele Nash.
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If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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