New Ellenton Middle art students engineer lasting legacy for school

New Ellenton Middle art students engineer lasting legacy for school

From The Aiken Standard

Article by Larry Wood

Art students at New Ellenton Middle STEAM Magnet School recently learned the art of engineering.

Using elements of engineering, including exploring, creating and testing, the students made two stained glass windows – each a mirror image of the other – featuring the school’s mascot, the Wolverine, in the school’s colors, green and gold.


Students in Kimberly Fontanez’s art classes at New Ellenton Middle STEAM Magnet School created two stained glass windows with artist-in-residence Stacy O’Sullivan. The windows now welcome guests as they enter the school’s front door. Photo by Larry Wood

One of Kimberly Fontanez’s sixth-grade art students sketched the designs for the windows, and artist-in-residence Stacy O’Sullivan translated them into a pattern for stained glass.

Seventh-graders and the eighth-grade students in Fontanez’s Art I class, for which they receive high school credit in middle school, built the windows, each 31-by-21 inches, with O’Sullilvan’s guidance.

After both windows went through a glazing process to help protect the glass, O’Sullivan installed them over the school’s front door, leaving a permanent legacy of the students’ time at New Ellenton Middle.

With its emphasis on STEAM, New Ellenton Middle incorporates the arts and science, technology, engineering and mathematics in classes across the curriculum. For the stained glass project, students followed the engineering design process, Fontanez said.

“Using the engineering design process, students first explored. They created a design. They then created tests to refine the design before starting the work,” she said.

The students worked hand-in-hand with O’Sullivan to create the two stained glass windows.

They cut the colored glass pieces into squares, rectangles, triangles and arcs – learning about geometry – and then ground the pieces’ sharp edges smooth on a grinder – learning about engineering safety. They also learned about leading and building the windows by putting the individual pieces of colored glass together to create unified works of art.

“They have been intricately involved in every part of the process,” O’Sullivan said.

 At New Ellenton Middle, art and science go together like an artist’s paints and palette or a scientist’s microscope and slides.

“The STEAM program, in general, has been exciting to me as an artist in the community because it allows me to bring my artistry and show the parallel to what the kids are learning in school, aligning it with actual industries in Aiken County,” said O’Sullivan, the co-owner of Art and Soul, a gallery, studio and teaching/learning facility in downtown Aiken. “It’s exciting to be part of that, and the students have been amazing. They’ve done a great job and had great enthusiasm for the project.”

Eighth-grader Jaiven Gardner said she is proud of her and her classmates’ work and their gift to the school.

“The best part is being able to create a piece of art and be proud of it and know that you worked with your class to do that piece,” she said.

She’s also proud to leave a legacy for future students at New Ellenton Middle.

“I’m very proud that my class is going to leave a reminder of our last year here at New Ellenton Middle STEAM Magnet School,” Gardner said. “I love this project, and I love my school.”