What if you could create a school program that combined empathy for the cause of food justice with engineering, design and English Language Arts? What if that very program required collaboration with organizations outside of school, as well as massive amounts of teamwork within the school? If it sounds like the perfect program for PDS, it’s likely because we created it. Now in its fourth year, Food Bowl Hudson Valley (formerly know as Canstruction Jr.) has become a key part of the sixth grade program.
The final event of Food Bowl is when students build a very large structure in the Galleria Mall in Poughkeepsie– entirely out of canned goods and other non-perishable food. Other schools also join us, and while the sculptures are judged and awards are presented, the real winners are the local food banks and pantries, and the people in need who ultimately receive this food. Since its inception, this community project of Poughkeepsie Day School has collectively donated about ten tons of food!
Students have gotten off to a strong start this month, in preparation for this year’s event, which will run from the build date of Friday, March 4 through Saturday, March 12. After advisors Shirley Rinaldi and Karl Mauks gave the students an overview of the experience, the first activity for the group was a trip to Dia:Beacon, where students begin to grasp the concept of public art being made large, and from unusual materials.
Work at school began in earnest recently, as students began to develop a design concept. First, students used post-it notes to brainstorm under the categories “Themes,” “Structure,” and “Tinkering.” With thoughts pouring out of the heads of the individuals, students moved into groups of four and listed ideas under each category. The next, fun part was to connect the ideas to see if an over arching concept would emerge.
When the whole grade came together again, students decided that they would like to vote on their favorite idea. What was wonderful about this process is that students were able to abandon some of the early, personal favorites, in favor of other ideas that the groups had discussed, and thus a common vision emerged.
While details are still to come, the theme of big city, perhaps with an iconic building, seems to have taken hold. Students finished their busy day by drawing, once again as individuals, what the structure might look like. In the weeks to come, they’ll be converting to the common dimension of “cans,” and working out the structural integrity of this truly massive undertaking. Tinkering may bring lights and moving parts, and somewhere in our future, a memorable tag line will grace the entire project.