Creative Collective showcases students’ writing, artistry

Alexzandr Patti, a young child who has short brown hair and is wearing oversized eyeglasses, a red t-shirt and green hoodie, looks at and smiles for the camera while making a peace sign with their fingers. Zandr is seated at a desk in a classroom with a book open on the table they are seated at.
Alexzandr Patti, author of the story of superhero Goatie the Goat, says having work included in the 2023 Creative Collective is “crazy good” and “super awesome!”

The Creative Collective anthology of student writing and artwork is back after a short break and is better than ever. Featuring nearly 90 pieces of original student writing—from non-fiction to poetry—along with artwork, the collective is designed to showcase our students’ growth and creativity with writing.

Since 2017, our Special Education division has been working dedicatedly to strengthen the processes and curricula it uses to help students learn in all the essential subject areas and disciplines. Student literacy—reading, writing, speaking, and other forms of communication—has been a key part of this work.

“What I love about writing is that it is truly open to everyone. No matter their skills or ability, they can find a way into writing and find a use for writing in their lives. There is always a way to enter into it,” said training specialist Donna Lamkin.

“Having the clear roadmaps we have set in place for instruction around literacy’s essential components—phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension—allows us to differentiate learning to best suit a learner’s needs and abilities. Specially designed writing is not only the heart and purpose of the writing process, but where students learn to love to write, learn how to write widely, and try their hand at many different genres and styles.”

Enter the Creative Collective

High schooler Joselyn Diaz Garcia, who has long reddish brown hair, is wearing a black denim jacket and is displaying a copy of the Creative Collective writing anthology with their artwork on its front, looks at and smiles for the camera.
The artwork of Joselyn Diaz-Garcia graces the cover of the 2023 Creative Collective. “It is my dream to be a photographer. This was fun because I got to express myself and develop my art skills by learning how to create art this way.”

As an educational coach with a specialization in literacy, Lamkin is frequently asked to support our Special Education teachers in teaching the writing process. Established in 2001 and reintroduced in 2023, the Creative Collective project has been Lamkin’s answer for the students and educators she works with.

“Learning about and trying their hand at writing for different purposes is how we build better writers, and help learners be more creative, develop their ‘voice’ and become more skilled with tools such as grammar and punctuation. All of these are things that need to be taught,” Lamkin said. “But there is so much more to writing than functionality. When we help students develop their creativity in the context of working on their writing, it can be inspirational and give them a push. It can be motivating when they have a strong attachment to something they care about.”

Having their work published along with their peers in a bound book, such as the Creative Collective, has also given the students a fun and meaningful “end goal” for their writing, illustrations, and art.

The 2023 edition of the Creative Collective features nearly 90 pieces of original student writing—from non-fiction and persuasive pieces to poetry—along with illustrations and stand-alone artwork.

Students in teacher Brent Pierce’s Work-Based Learning (SELFI) program handled the production (copying, binding) and delivery of the journal to students and classrooms around the division—learning essential skills such as teamwork, attention to detail, meeting deadlines, and customer service.

“It has been a win-win all the way around to be able to do this in-house, with so many of our students and staff as contributors and helpers,” Lamkin said. 

The joy of seeing your work in print

The elementary-age students in Jodie Grestini’s class are among those featured in this year’s collective.

“I know all the students in our class are creative, but it can be difficult for them to pull their ideas and details together into an actual piece of writing,” said Grestini. “These were longer writing pieces—we worked on them for more than two months—and the students had to stick with it and work hard to complete them.”

Along the way, the students shared their drafts and encouraged and inspired each other—characters from one student’s piece can be found in another classmate’s writing or illustrations. The day the Creative Collective arrived, Grestini said the students were so excited and proud of one another.

“During our ‘read to self’ period it was the only thing the students wanted to read,” said Grestini. “There was a lot of joy in their faces when they saw that their work was part of a larger book with their classmates and other students, too.”

Alexzandr Patti shared the creative story of the superhero Goatie the Goat along with colorful comic-like illustrations in this year’s collective.

“Zandr has always had great, creative ideas, but wasn’t confident as a writer,” said Grestini. “It has been nice to see him and the other students transitioning into confident and excited writers through this project.”

“I liked creating the story of Goatie, especially creating a problem that he could solve,” added Patti, who said it is “crazy good” and “really awesome” having his work in print.

For high schooler Joselyn Diaz-Garcia, the collective project offered an opportunity to develop her art skills and let readers know about her hopes and dreams without a single word.

“It is my dream to be a photographer,” said Diaz-Garcia, whose art piece features a realistic pencil drawing of a person who looks a bit like Joselyn taking a photo with a digital camera.  “This was fun because I got to express myself and develop my art skills by learning how to create art this way.”

“It feels really good to have my art on the cover of the collective and to have so many people telling me how good it is,” Diaz-Garcia continued. “This makes me smile!”

Highlights from the 2023 Creative Collective

While this year’s edition of the Creative Collective was a limited paper printing, plans are in the works to expand the project in future years and make it more widely available. In the meantime, here are a few highlights from this year’s publication:  

Artists of Italy

“A lot of paintings and art originate from Italy. I feel inspired to learn about some of these artists. This would help me become a famous artist one day. One painting that interests me is the Mona Lisa [by Leonardo da Vinci.] I look upon this oil painting, with a popular wooden panel. A mysterious smile, no eyebrows, a standard pose that stood out to me. It looked different to me.”

“By learning more about a specific artist, it helps me to explore my opportunities in becoming an artist. Like other artists, we learn to be more talented, creative, and successful in our way.” — Zachary D’Annibale 

SOFIA (an acrostic poem)

Star Gazer, On my way to High School, Fierce, Imaginative, Always Loving Wolves — Sofia Lisboa

Should We Still Have Movie Theaters?

“I think we should have movie theaters. There are many reasons we should have movie theaters. Here are the reasons I learned about when reading on the topic.

The first reason is they have nice chairs and cup holders. I think this is great reason because I like to sit in a comfy chair while watching a movie.

The second reason is you don’t have to clean up after yourself. I think this is an excellent reason because sometimes I drop crumbs while I am eating my popcorn. The workers clean up my crumbs in the movie theater.

The third reason is you can have slushies, candy and popcorn. I think this is a fantastic reason because at the movie theater I can have a lot of snack choices.

I believe we should have movie theaters. I hope I have convinced you to feel the same way because I would rather watch a movie at a theater.” — Elizabeth Lorini

Choose Your Words Wisely

“I believe that words are powerful. Nice words can be good for all readers. Not too nice words can be hurtful and thoughtless to all. Language can hurt people if you choose bad words or use them to insult. Nice words can be good for everyone. So people should choose your words wisely.”  — Charlie Singleman