Local teacher sends art kits to her students

Published: May. 4, 2020 at 5:03 AM EDT
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To get kids to go crafty, not crazy during the Stay At Home, Stay Safe order, a local elementary school art teacher sent her students art kits.

Most teachers only had a few days to transition to at-home learning before the school buildings closed in Vermont.

Arista Alanis, a Johnson Elementary School art teacher, says she wished she had given her kids more supplies before they were out of the building. So she came up with an idea, sending them art kits to spark creativity during the pandemic.

"Once they tap into that creative place, a lot of joy and happiness comes out of it," said Alanis.

"When she got it in the mail, it was like Christmas morning. I said, 'Rosie, you got a package from Miss Arista!' And she was like, 'What!?' And she just ripped it right open. She was like, 'Wow look at all this stuff!'" said Vanessa Tourangeau, a Johnson parent.

Students like kindergartener Rose Tourangeau have been diving into these art kits since just before Easter. The packets include drawing paper, colored pencils, watercolors, oil pastels, markers, crayons and a pack of origami paper.

"I was like, 'Oh my gosh I love art.' So I decided to just get into it. It's very calming," said Sydney Hill, from Johnson Elementary School.

Alanis says giving her students a way to express emotions they couldn't put into words, like frustration or sadness, is the whole point.

"Art is so important, in general, but really important during hard times," said Alanis.

As a painter at the Vermont Studio Center herself, Alanis says she understands the value of having a creative outlet.

"Once they tap into that creative place, a lot of joy and happiness comes out of it," she says.

At the beginning of April, after the Vermont Studio Center purchased the supplies, Alanis spent long nights assembling the emergency art kits on the floor of a garage. She brought the finished products to the postmaster who'd help her distribute one per household.

The dedication to her students didn't go unnoticed.

"I felt good that someone was actually giving up their time to send out these little packets to everyone," said Chase Hill of Johnson Elementary.

"Everything has gone so digital, and so much of that contact is no more face-to-face, that this actually takes them away from the screens and gives them an opportunity to actually explore the things they'd like to see on paper," said Kyley Hill of Johnson.

Alanis wants to stress this was a community effort from the neighbor who offered his garage where she could assemble the kits to the postmaster delivering the packets to students.

And she says she's already heard from other towns who want her help bringing art kits to kids in their community.

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