When Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools received the news that schools would be closing, the staff at Shamrock Garden Elementary School came together to make sure students could find creative ways to keep learning while at home.
“Teachers put in place virtual morning meetings, so students could still keep their regular routine of sharing their experiences and to continue building a culture of care with our scholars,” said Jamil Dyair Steele, a Charlotte Mecklenburg teacher.
Now more than ever, Steele said that we all need to tap into our creative selves -- especially kids. While their routine has been interrupted and there is so much uncertainty, art gives them a way to escape the daily reality of being stuck in the house.
“This is a scary time for many of them and they need creative ways to keep their minds occupied. I'm just happy I can still help bring that to them virtually,” Steele said.
To help students stay connected to arts and physical education virtually, his team decided that each special area teacher would create a YouTube channel to keep students engaged. For his channel, Steele will be posting fun, creative, easy-to-follow art instructional videos, as well as videos creating his own art.
“I think it's good for students to see me working on my own craft as well. I think it humanizes teachers in the eyes of students,” he said.
You can find Steele’s art all over town. His work is featured in several galleries in and around Charlotte; the Art House in NODA; Festival in the Park; Spirit Square; the Art Institute of Charlotte; and most recently the Center for the Arts in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
“Art is a universal language that allows each of us to express our individual and collective experiences,” Steele said. “Students thrive when they engage in art. Art impacts every part of their lives. Fashion, photography, graphic design, theater, dance, and music, allow students to express themselves and makes learning fun.”
His overall hope is to make students feel a sense of connectedness and express themselves while learning.
“I want them to see me still being creative,” Steele said. “I hope it shows them that we are all in this together from start to finish. And that I'll be painting beside them the whole way.”
Rwenshaun Miller, founder of Eustress, Inc. and a mental health expert, said that art isn’t just for kids; research shows coloring offers plenty of mental benefits and has therapeutic potential to reduce anxiety and create focus.
“A lot of times, we don’t enjoy the pleasure that we had as a kid when we become an adult,” Miller said. “Coloring is a simple way that you can introduce self-care into your daily routine.”
Miller said that just like meditation, art allows us to switch off our brains from other feelings and concentrate only on the moment, helping to lessen anxiety.
“Some of the best ideas get started at home,” Steele said. “I definitely want my scholars to still engage in art even if they are not in school.”
If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.