STEAM Night brought art, fun to SMS


Last updated 5/24/2022 at Noon

At an extravagant selfie station, 6th- grade student Parker Johnson takes center stage, with 5th-grader Brennan Johnson in the background KELLY JOHNSON.

Students of Sisters Middle School (SMS) and their families gathered Thursday evening for STEAM Night at the school. Student-made art was on display throughout the campus. Kids enjoyed activities involving STEAM subjects, while parents sipped hot cups of Sisters Coffee and sometimes got hands-on, too.

STEAM is a buzzword in education, like STEM before it. Fifth-grade student Annabelle Molesworth took a guess at what the acronym stands for. “Science, Technology, something, Art, and Math,” she said. “I don’t know what the E stands for.”

The missing E word is for Engineering. A related activity involved using a tablet computer to move a robotic, light-up ball around the library; sometimes it escaped into the commons area.

Fiddles and guitars rang out as kids played. At stop-motion animation stations, people moved little objects around and photographed them to make mini videos. Students had helped create giant “color-in” papers for folks to gather around and bring to life with crayons.

Students contributed to an impressive sculpture about connecting people, an assemblage that snaked along the SMS commons stage. The selfie staging area included a painted jacket people could wear and a throne-like chair.

A zine-style coloring book, “Awesome Alliteration Art,” debuted. Featuring illustrations and words by SMS sixth graders, it popped with stories of Pop’s pretty polar bears, leaping leopards lunging at lemon-licking Lewis, and a quacking Queen of Quails. A comic character proclaimed, “It’s rare to rage about ribs.”

In the art room, with its wild assortment of brushes and pens, papers and pigments, Molesworth worked on a sponge painting. Participants were encouraged to make the paintings inspired by the work of 20th-century Black American abstract painter Alma Thomas.

Said Molesworth of STEAM Night, “It was really fun. At the beginning I came here early and I was handing out posters and greeting everybody.”

She is a student of art teacher Judy Fuentes, who helped organize the event.

“Ms. Fuentes is the best homeroom teacher ever,” exclaimed Molesworth. “We get to work on art a lot; she’s really, really nice. It’s a really good environment. All the teachers here are really good.”

Several parents were encouraged to paint, with printouts of Thomas’ paintings nearby. At first they demurred, but eventually sat down and started making art, absorbed in the act of creation.

Fuentes said she viewed the evening as an opportunity for families to get back in the school building together, which hasn’t happened much in the last couple years due to the pandemic.

“What I loved about tonight was the stillness in the activities,” she said. “Nobody was on their phone. They were engaged in the space and with each other.”

STEAM Night “shined a light, exposing our families to the ways our kids get to learn here,” said Fuentes. “It’s not just static and rote. Kids make science posters and they get to work with Sphero robots and stop-motion animation and painting, and all types of creative opportunities to problem-solve and work with others.”

Soft skills and life skills are taught along with academic subjects.

“What I allow students to do is to create their own ideas,” Fuentes said. “They have to be confident and articulate, and then you’ve got to plan and problem-solve and work towards that goal.” In art as elsewhere in life, it’s useful to be willing to alter goals “but still persevere and get it going on.”

How can community in Sisters support young kids who have creative ambitions?

“I feel like we get support from outside entities, whether it’s the Folk Festival or The Roundhouse Foundation or the Art Association at Black Butte Ranch — they’ve donated money to our art supplies,” said Fuentes. “Things like that matter a lot.”

For families, Fuentes recommended supporting kids at home with creative ideas “in such a way that allows them to believe in themselves and to flourish.”

Fifth grader Annabelle Molesworth created heart-shaped art in the art classroom of Judy Fuentes. T.LEE BROWN.

She also suggested working with kids to expand from using the word “like.” People tend to get stuck on saying quickly, “I like that” or “I don’t like it,” about art, music, and movies. Fuentes asks kids, “What do you like about it?” She added that it’s okay if you don’t like a particular creation.

Either way, “talking about their idea in an analytical way instead of just like or don’t-like. Helping our artists, at any age, to just wonder.”

Above all art is a prompt, said Fuentes. “Art, literature, movies, all the different types of art forms, are prompts for us to think new things or confirm ideas or debate ideas. Some art is so powerful it makes you do something, makes you take an action.”

As for STEAM Night, Fuentes enjoyed seeing “littles and families doing all those STEAM activities; it was super fun.”

Molesworth enjoyed the evening too.

“I really like the color-in pages,” Molesworth said, “Me and a couple of my friends helped make them. It was a really good night.”


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