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The School Zone: News

Painting by Carleigh, 7th-grade, Spring Forest Middle School


Stress be gone. Exercising creativity through art can be a mind-calming activity, and serve as an outlet for student anxiety. 

In Spring Branch ISD, visual arts teachers are connecting with their students to encourage them to tap into creative activities during this time of at-home learning and uncertainty in the world.

Starting this week, Pre-K through 5th grade art and music activities were included in the Fine Arts section of the SBISD Digital Backpack.

“We are really focusing on giving the students projects to do that will make them smile and use their imagination,” said Sally Doyle, SBISD visual arts coordinator.  “We want them to have some fun and learn a little something along the way.”

Creativity at home

“Using Zoom with my students has been one of the best ways to check in with them emotionally and encourage what they are creating at home,” said Becky Mustachio, art teacher at Spring Forest Middle School. She was also recently named the school’s Teacher of the Year.

Mustachio has been creating Camtasia art instruction videos to post on itslearning, the district’s online learning platform. See video example here

“When I have a creative burst, I like to paint landscapes,” said Carleigh, a Spring Forest seventh-grader. She says making art is the way she can block out everything that is happening in the world of COVID-19.

She also appreciates Zoom time with Ms. Mustachio. “It feels like we’re back in our old classroom,” she said.



Pencil drawing is the medium of choice for Liza, a sixth-grade art student. “It helps my brain relax,” she said. 

While at home, she has been encouraged by Ms. Mustachio to keep drawing. “Now I don’t compare my drawings to others in my class, and this has changed my confidence,” she said.

Mustachio recommends using traditional and non-traditional materials to make art. She challenges her students to make art with a variety of tools at home to stimulate the creative parts of their brains. 

Lose yourself in art

At Landrum Middle School, Christopher McVay employs several electronic tools to provide at-home instruction for his students, including itslearning, YouTube and, a digital portfolio system used by his young artists for two years.

Via Artsonia, he is able to provide teacher feedback, while parents receive pictures and descriptions of their children’s artwork. 

McVay not only hopes to continue receiving amazing images from his students that they have created at home, but he is posting thought-provoking questions on an itslearning Discussion Board to engage students in creative conversations about famous works of art.

“I believe that art is a way to escape from everyday tasks,” said McVay.  “It is a way to unwind and relieve stress. When I am designing on the computer or crocheting, I lose myself in my work.”


While at home during the school shutdown, he has also been working on an art car he started with his students before spring break, and created a yarn wall hanging (with the ‘help’ of his dog, Jack).

“I would like my students to pull away from technology for 20 minutes a day to create and explore with what they have around them,” says McVay.

Clay teapots and Yappy Hour

Spring Woods High School art students are also connecting with visual arts teacher Rebekah Tee via itslearning and Zoom. 

“I have assignments that they can choose from but encourage them to create works that are geared towards the AP test,” Tee said. 


One student is continuing her interest in clay teapots by sketching new ideas on paper for Tee’s review. Others have found objects around their homes to create gradated color wheels. 

Some of her AP Art students gather for a virtual studio on Zoom to keep in touch and receive instruction from Tee. This week they plan to have a “Yappy Hour” session to chat and show off their pets.

“I just want the kids to be creative and resourceful,” said Tee. “I'm teaching with the best means that I can use…it's reaching the students so that they have any kind of normalcy in their learning and art community.”

Resources & Ideas

Here is a list suggested by these art teachers of unconventional materials found at home that can be used for creating art:
•    coffee
•    tea
•    food coloring 
•    dressings 
•    lipstick
•    eyeliner

Related home-based art ideas:
•    Mix herbs/spices with water and glue 
•    Use pizza cardboard for a canvas 
•    Cut fabric in tiny pieces to weave 
•    Make finger prints from mustard/ketchup 
•    Use old toothbrushes or new Q-tips instead of paint brushes
•    Create a picture collage with leaves, sticks, rocks, etc. from nature 
•    Go on a texture hunt. Find, sort, and label as many textures you can find.
•    Use this worksheet to find other “art supplies” at home.

Each teacher emphasized the importance of keeping creative juices flowing during a stressful time by seeing what’s around us with an artful lens.

McVay said, “Look around you and see things for not only what they are, but what they could be. Have you ever laid on the grass and looked up to the clouds to see what the clouds could be? This is the type of imagination and thought that can really make your artwork into strong, creative work.”

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