We are more than halfway through our second month of school and I can say we have officially completed our biggest art project yet…2 painted plows! Yes, you read that right. 2 PLOWS!
In the state of Pennsylvania, our Department of Transportation (PennDOT), sponsors an annual contest in several different counties to promote safety and awareness about “crowding the plow” during the winter months. To help promote their message, PennDOT asks schools to paint on a plow with a specific message to educate the local community and create awareness. This was the first time the “Paint the Plow” contest has been done in Monroe County in many years and we were eager to participate. Yes, my smART partner and I are quite crazy like that…always up for a new challenge.
We committed to participating in the “Paint the Plow” contest at the end of the 2017-2018 school year and reached out to our school district for monetary support, as we had to purchase the materials to paint the plow and we had already submitted our 2018-2019 Art Budget based on our Curriculum. We were pleased to have our district’s Curriculum Office agree to purchase the materials for the participating schools within our district.
When we returned to school to start the 2018-2019 school year, we announced the contest to our students and asked them to submit a design for the plows. Their goal was to create an image that would promote the message, “Stay Clear of the Plow”. Students in 6th through 8th grade submitted designs for the contest and then we had the difficult task of selecting the winners. To our advantage, (and to prove we really are the overzealous Art teachers!) we wound up taking two plows for our school, so we selected two designs that would fit the shape of the plow, as well as promote the message in a fun, visual way.
One of the designs showcased a huge monster in the center of the plow, balanced by our school district logo and the state of Pennsylvania. The other plow design featured a “JTL” plow coming down a street with a snowman getting ready to be knocked out of the way. They both were fun, whimsical designs that meshed well with our Middle School artists.
By mid-September, PennDOT dropped off the two plows on the front lawn of our school and our awesome custodial staff power-washed the plows to ensure they were clean and ready to paint. After obtaining the necessary supplies from a local building supply store, including metal primer, enamel paints, brushes, paint thinner and sealant, we were ready to get to work.
We prepped the plow by painting a coat of “clean metal primer” on the plow and sketching the design onto the plow using black chalk pastel. Students then began blocking in colors and trying their best not to get the paint on them or their clothes. We had plenty of smocks handy and a container of paint thinner to rinse paint off of their skin. As careful as we were, there were still some spills. Thank you, Mr. Reichl, our extremely supportive principal, for handling the spills on the pavement with a chuckle. Fortunately, the spills were gray and black and make a subtle “artist statement” on the sidewalk.
All in all, the students had a memorable middle school experience. They were able to see the entire process of the plows evolve from a plain yellow plow, to a sketched plan, to a colorful artistic piece that required patience and collaboration in order to come together. The students learned to overcome the challenges of a rainy Fall and the muddy ground that they had to deal with. We even learned that students will go to great measures to keep their sneakers clean…hence the plastic bags over their shoes in some of the pictures! We learned to try and stay calm around the bees and bugs when we were outside on the nice days and how to deal with the wind and cold once the temperatures dropped. The friendships that evolved between groups of students that didn’t have class together was an amazing thing to watch as a teacher. The pride the students had in their work each afternoon (which was also during their free time) was a wonderful thing to see. We even got some press through our local television news stations and it was wonderful to see the enthusiasm of our students shine on TV.
I am so proud of my students and their hard work on this HUGE project and I can’t wait to see how we do in the competition against other schools in Monroe County!