‘Uniquely theirs’: Crimson View students take artistic journey through the Amazon rainforest

ST. GEORGE — Crimson View Elementary School’s hallways echoed with critters rustling and nature buzzing with life during the “Amazon Comes to Crimson View” art show.

A fifth grade student’s black caiman, made out of cardboard and paint, sits at the edge of the steps at Crimson View Elementary, St. George, Utah, May 9, 2024 | Photo by Bridger Palmer, St. George News

Kristine Sewell, Crimson View Elementary School’s art director and third-grade teacher, told St. George News that one of the requirements for the grant is holding an art show during the school year. She said Crimson View exceeds that expectation by having a few throughout the year.

“We do many art displays throughout the year,” she said. “We always do one for Veterans Day, and we always do one at the beginning of school where the whole school is involved.”

Though Crimson View Elementary is a STEM school, arts are taught because they enhance the learning experience by integrating creativity with scientific and technical education, Sewell said.

“Last year, we did an under-the-sea theme,” she said. “For that, we talked a lot about ecosystems under the ocean. And this year, we decided to do the Amazon rainforest.”

The students always play a part in selecting the theme, and in February, they selected to the Amazon rainforest.

Student Lucy Rose stands with her artwork during the gallery at Crimson View Elementary, St. George, Utah, May 9, 2024 | Photo by Bridger Palmer, St. George News

“I give them some ideas, and then we vote,” Sewell said. “But it’s kind of their show.”

Part of that show is fifth grader Lucy Rose. She said she was proud of her peers for their work this year.

“It was really cool to see everyone’s work come together,” Rose said. “It was special.”

Over a dozen works featured watercolor paintings of rainforest animals and collaborative pieces from all grade levels like vines and mushrooms, among other things. Students learned about the rainforest ecosystem, various animals and the importance of conservation.

For some students, getting a reprieve from the usual grind of STEM was a welcomed change.

“Some kids academically struggle, and this is a place where there is no struggle,” Sewell said. “For some kids, art is their favorite thing. They tell their parents, ‘Today’s Wednesday (art day), my favorite day.’”

Students are not graded on what they create but how they create it.

“If we’re making macaws, theirs has to be a macaw,” Sewell said. “But the variation and how they change it to make it uniquely theirs, I support 100%.”

She quotes author Gary Paulsen, who said that kids are the ones with real imagination.

“Once you grow up, your imagination decreases, and we’re all shut off. To some degree, I think that’s kind of true,” she said.

A student’s artwork of a bug on a leaf during the gallery at Crimson View Elementary, St. George, Utah, May 9, 2024 | Photo by Bridger Palmer, St. George News

Parental involvement has been key, with them joining to help every day.

“About 20 parents come and just help during the art class time,” Sewell said. “The parents are so supportive.”

The open house art show allowed families to view student artwork and participate in activities like make-and-take crafts and photo booths.

Sewell emphasized the focus on watercolor techniques, a new experience for the students.

“I’m really into watercolor. The kids have loved it. They’re just like, ‘This is the coolest medium of art,’” she said. Sewell even took a watercolor class herself to better teach the students advanced techniques.

In the days leading up to the event, Sewell said she was confident in her students and their work.

“No matter what happens tomorrow, we’ve had success,” Sewell said. “The successful part is already done.”

Sewell said support on the district level helps offset expenses for a program that sometimes experiences monetary challenges.

Another bug on a leaf at Crimson View Elementary, St. George, Utah, May 9, 2024 | Photo by Bridger Palmer, St. George News

This end-of-year exhibit was made possible by a grant from the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Foundation. Named after arts advocate Beverly Taylor Sorenson, the program aims to integrate arts education within elementary schools across Utah.

The Beverly Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program integrates arts education into Utah elementary schools through state funding and private grants. The Utah State Board of Education then allocates funds for lessons.

Since its start in 1996, BTS Arts has expanded to 347 schools, affecting over 213,000 students, nearly half of Utah’s K-6 population. BTS Arts places specialists in visual art, music, dance, or theater in schools to work with teachers on integrating arts into subjects like math, science, social studies, and language arts.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.

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