The Hero’s Journey – Classroom to Art Studio to Zoo

A graceful Pegasus with flowing mane stands next to Medusa’s serpent mane. Beyond them, a red-eyed Harpy hovers above a proud Centaur. The mythological zoo is ready for visitors. These fantastical creatures are the product of two months of work by sixth graders at Shorecrest. In its third year, the project integrates art, English, science, and world language to make learning come to life.

The project is the brainchild of Shorecrest sixth grade English teacher Amy Cobb. “Greek mythology is always a popular topic for middle schoolers,” says Cobb, “but I wanted to find a way to make it more experiential.” That’s when Cobb rallied her colleagues’ support, first reaching out to art teacher Cindy Williams who worked with students to develop a 3D model of the beasts using upcycled materials. “It’s a huge design project from beginning to end,” says Williams.

As an intro to the design process, upcycle artists were invited to demo the building steps. Calling in expert advice lent credence and depth to the project. Plastic bags, paper towel tubes, and wire coat hangers are some of the foundational pieces that make up the animals.

A field experience to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is an important component. “We charged the students to watch the animals carefully – how do they move? What do their habitats look like?” says Cobb. Following careful research, the students wrote synopses in English, as well as small descriptions in Spanish or French which are displayed alongside their 3D models.

Before the final finishing touches, the beasts traveled to science class where Curtis Cruise, sixth grade science teacher, worked with students to build electronic circuits, wiring their beasts to light up or move using a motor.

Once the beasts were complete and habitats created, the zoo was staged in the Shorecrest library. Students acting as zoo keepers hosted tours throughout the day, presenting their newfound knowledge to parents, teachers, and fellow students.

Does your school do something similar?

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