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By Stephen Wilson

Giving 7-year-olds sharp tools may not always be a good thing.

Yet they sit transfixed as Nestor Armando Gil, assistant professor of art, effortlessly slices a wire through a block of clay.Prof Gill with Cheston students

He is encouraging first-graders from Cheston Elementary School to synergize with their friends. It’s a term many of them have heard before as part of the district’s “Leader in Me” curriculum, which uses ideas from Steven Covey’s Seven Habits for Highly Successful People.

“I want you to copy others,” says Gil. The students all gasp, shocked at that statement. “It’s OK! Look around and see what others are doing with their clay and do it too.”

The kids are tasked with making a low-relief sculpture. They will build, cut, coil, pound, carve, and scrape, shaping their piece, adding bits here and removing pieces there.

Flanking them are Gil’s own sculpture students. Each college student is helping the kids by offering guidance, suggestions, and encouragement. After the fun ends, the college students will create rubber molds and make a plaster cast of each piece.Laf students with Cheston students

Those pieces will land back in first-grade teacher Heather Maczko’s class where students will paint their creations.

She is thrilled to have her class experience this creative moment. “We are so curriculum-heavy, but days like this are remembered,” she says. “They get to see this wonderful facility and are fully engaged in the creative spirit, which can be hard for all 25 of them. But look! It’s a new world for them.”

New world indeed. As they passed Centre Square on their short bus ride from Southside Easton to the Williams Arts Campus, some of the students asked if they were in New York City.

The Center for Community Engagement launched a pilot program at Cheston focusing on the enhancement of educational outcomes for the core curriculum by bringing Lafayette faculty, Cheston teachers, and both Lafayette and Cheston students together through cooperatively developed classroom-oriented learning modules.

Cheston Elementary is one of two United Way Community Schools in Easton, an initiative to help level the playing field for schools where students face more barriers to success. The schools become a hub of services that include one-site medical and dental, food banks, clothing closets, and housing resources. These services can help prevent issues that distract from learning.

Distraction was not a problem in the studio that morning as these students’ creations indicate.

Cheston student Khyonne

“I made a happy pumpkin.” -Khyonne

Cheston students Keilyn and Avril

“I have never made a bunny before.” “I like cats.” “I love bunnies!” -Keilyn and Avril

Cheston student Andrew

“I made an underwater sea landscape. We can make whatever we want. I thought it looks cool.” -Andrew

Cheston student Jahsiah

“This is a snail in a shell. It is hiding from a fox that is trying to eat it.” -Jahsiah

Cheston student Roman

“It is a T-Rex but the head came off. I love dinosaurs and have books and puzzles with them.” -Roman


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