When the COVID-19 pandemic halted all in-classroom instruction at Frederick County schools, Carroll Creek Montessori School art teacher Lisa Reed had to get creative.

A longtime fan of land art, she decided now would be the perfect time to have her students create earthworks in various natural spots throughout the county and take photos of their endeavors. The result was a variety of beautiful photos, which the students created in a social distanced environment and shared online.

Reed recently answered some questions via email about the project.

Can you tell me about the earthworks projects that your middle school students are working on during quarantine?

Reed: Art made of flower petals, seeds, leaves, rocks, light, shadow, time, and change has been keeping creative, quarantined middle school students from FCPS’ Carroll Creek Montessori School busy as they build earthworks in creeks, brooks, yards, and sidewalks across Frederick County. Eighth grade student, Skylar Kubiak, created ‘The Angel’s Work’ by capturing the moment the sunlight shone on a carefully placed flower. Seventh graders Taylor Spielvogel and Noa Vogin built their works in or near water where nature quickly changed their sculptures as the waters rose. Seventh and eighth grade art students from CCM … have been learning about the history of land art and famed earthwork artists Robert Smithson, Viveka Bowry, and Andrew Goldsworthy through art lessons on Schoology.

How did you come up with the idea for your students to create these pieces?

Reed: [I have] followed and loved the work of Andrew Goldsworthy for years. When [I] realized that one of the challenges of teaching art via distance learning was the students’ varied access to materials it seemed the perfect opportunity to explore land art with its reliance on natural and found materials. Keeping in mind that stewardship of the land is integral to Montessori teaching, [I] guided the children to explore this conceptual art form.

How are they creating the works and where are they displayed?

Reed: To make their work, students were invited to choose a site and spend time observing their surroundings mindfully. They then gathered materials and created an intuitive work using what they found on site. Erin Reeder created ‘Circles’ by ‘painting’ concentric circles with colorful leaves and flowers on her sidewalk.

Students maintained social distancing rules by creating their artworks in their yards or on sidewalks in front of their homes. Documentation through photography is important to these impermanent works so the young artists are photographing their works [with cell phones — usually iPhones] weekly to document changes due to weather and time. The children’s photos of their works are uploaded to a media album on Schoology, a Facebook album on the school’s Facebook page, and to the school’s art blog at http://artccmpcs.blogspot.com/.

How do these efforts differ from what they would be doing in the classroom?

Reed: Before FCPS schools moved to distance learning in mid-March, [my] sculpture students were learning about found object art and assemblage. Earthworks incorporate both art making methods so this project built nicely on what they were learning in class. The biggest difference is the element of impermanence in land art. Over time, these works will change and disappear. When that happens, only the documentation remains as evidence of the art. At that point, the documentation is the art.

What other unique things have you done with your students while in quarantine?

Reed: CCM students kindergarten through eight grade, with [my] guidance … and their dedicated parents, continue to work on a variety of art assignments including landscape paintings and paintings of rare, threatened, and endangered species of Frederick County.

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