PLAINFIELD, NJ – Two Plainfield educators at Woodland Elementary School have been awarded the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) Frederick Hipp Foundation Excellence in Education Grant.  Teachers Joanne Barrett and Irene Mitta will work with fifth graders and their families on an art project to explore textile patterns and heritage aspects of the countries of Central America.

“Linking math and the visual arts is a fantastic way to teach students creativity while improving vital math skills at the same time,” said Superintendent of Schools Anna Belin-Pyles. “We are pleased this grant will support our district’s continued commitment to celebrate the cultural heritage of our student population throughout the school year. With the observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, the timing couldn’t be better.”

The grant was one of only 19 awarded by the NJEA, and it was the only one awarded in Union County.  

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Ms. Barrett and Ms. Mitta have called their project, “Art is Math, Math is Art: Exploring Textile Pattering and Designs of Central America.” This project will involve the students in an intergenerational experience with a focus on the patterns, designs and textiles from Central America.  A group of fifth-grade students will work with former students, ages 12-20, and adults from the district’s Picasso Parents group, a community group, in an after-school club. 

The club will meet to design visual works of art using targeted math skills such as patterning, measurement and geometry. A professional development workshop will be held to teach staff members how to use the targeted math skills for printing and patterning. Visual arts projects such as molas (Panama) and textile patterns (Mexico) will be created. Students will maintain a personal arts journal of techniques and patterns created.

“This is an exciting adventure for our district, and I can't wait to begin,” said Ms. Barrett.  For her part, Ms. Mitta said, “Art is self-expression both personal and cultural.  Art helps children understand the world around them. The more we understand each other’s cultures the more we see our similarities.”

Ms. Barrett and Ms. Mitta will be honored by the New Jersey Education Association’s Hipp Foundation during a luncheon and award ceremony on November 11, 2016 at the NJEA Convention in Atlantic City. 

Both teachers and students will be recognized by the NJEA's Emmy Award Winning Television Show, Classroom Close-Up, during their broadcast in January 2017.

In Plainfield, a culminating “Red Carpet” event and art exhibit will give the participants the opportunity to teach what they have learned to the larger school community and celebrate the children’s participation in this project. This event will be sponsored by the Plainfield Education Association (PEA). The public is invited to attend.

For additional information please call Gloria Montealegre, Community Relations Liaison, 908-731-4333 or email GMontealegre@Plainfield.K12.NJ.US.