by Jodi Jonis

This article was first published in Journeys Magazine, Summer 2017.

Empty Bowls

It’s a question that high school art teachers hear all the time from preschool and elementary teachers: 

“Can our kids work with your high school students in the art studio?” It makes perfect sense, really. What elementary kid doesn’t like working with clay, painting, and drawing? And wouldn’t it be great to have the high school students mentoring the younger kids? It sounds ideal. The problem is there is never enough time in the day or the curriculum. 

This year, visual arts teacher Barbara Harvey decided it was time to finally get the younger kids into the art studio. She has run a visual arts in Singapore Interim Semester program for years, but this time each of her students would be paired with a “buddy” from elementary or the early learning center. She explained that this change alone filled a need in our school community by bridging a gap between the divisions. Encouraging kids of different ages and divisions to get to know each other makes the whole SAS community stronger. 

Empty Bowls

But high school students wanted even more from their Interim project. They also wanted to make a meaningful contribution to the larger Singapore community through their visual art. That was the inspiration for incorporating the Empty Bowls model into the experience. Empty Bowls is an international grassroots project that uses the arts to raise awareness and money to end hunger. In the past SAS has offered Empty Bowls as a successful after-school club, so it was not a stretch to reinvent the project. The concept is simple—buy the bowl, get the food for free. 

That is how the 2017 visual arts Empty Bowls Interim course came to be. Under the guidance of Deputy Principal Doug Neihart, high school athletics trainer Tomo Tanabe and Barbara Harvey, high school students had a week full of community building, service, and ceramics. To start, they met their elementary or early learning center buddies and each team created a bowl out of clay. The high school students fired the bowls in the kiln and prepared food in Mrs. Ferguson’s homeliving classroom. Finally the students organized the big event on the last day of the week. The younger students were invited back to buy their bowls for S$5. And then they received their food for free. 

Empty Bowls

The last piece of the puzzle was what to do with the money? The students decided to donate the funds to Food From the Heart, a Singapore charity that provides money and manpower to collect and distribute food to those who need it locally. In all, 44 Interim students helped 278 early learning center and elementary students create over 300 bowls and raised S$1,000 for hunger relief. 

Among the many rewards Ms. Harvey can list from the project, the greatest is the connections made between the the kids. “I have had several of the little ones stop us in passing and our students have brought back tales of their young buddies greeting them at the American Club, in the cafeteria, or on the bus.” Her pinnacle evidence of success was the testimonial given by an elementary boy, new to SAS and not yet in his groove, who announced to his mother after working with the high school students, “Today I had my first best day at school.” 

Ms. Harvey chalks this year’s Interim up as a big success. Not only did it check the big DSLOs, it proved the maxim often quoted around the visual arts department. “Take care of community first, and great art will come as a result.”

Empty Bowls

Click here to read more articles from Journeys Magazine, Summer 2017.

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  • interim semester
  • service



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