OSWEGO, NY – Recently, when award-winning author and international humanitarian Greg Mortenson visited Oswego thousands heard him speak at the SUNY Oswego Campus Center.
During his visit, the local effort to contribute more than $8,000 to his “Pennies for Peace” initiative to build new schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan received widespread comments and publicity.
However, nearly lost in the visit were the local artistic efforts by students at the Charles E. Riley Elementary School.
Art teacher Rebecca Woods had heard Superintendent of Schools Bill Crist ask for support and genuine learning for Mortenson’s visit.
Woods took that message and brought it to her students.
The end result was an art display at both the Mortenson appearance, and later in an afternoon art display at Oswego’s river’s end book store.
Students also were involved in writing a variety of pieces regarding “Peace Pinwheels,” “Korphe’s Apricot Trees” and other culturally related aspects of Mortenson’s visit.
Reflecting on Mortenson’s successful visit and her students’ involvement she said, “All of my students, at every grade level, truly embraced the books of Greg Mortenson and learned so much about his mission in Pakistan and Afghanistan through doing their art projects.”
Charles E. Riley Elementary students in kindergarten through third grade created art work that directly reflected topics discussed in the book “Listen to the Wind” and Susan Roth’s artwork and artist notes in the back of the book that were a great inspiration to Riley students.
Woods continued, “We also studied the Pakistani culture which is rich in beautiful arts and crafts. Pakistanis have an intrinsic love and skill for arts and craft which have been passé down from their ancestors.”
The arts and crafts created in Pakistan vary from region to region.
Woods noted, “My fourth through sixth graders were able to experience making bird sculptures from clay, jewelry and tile and textiles designs which are unique to many regions and territories in Pakistan.”
Even though the numerous works of the Riley students were on display the evening of Mortenson’s appearance, they were not seen by the majority of those in attendance.
Woods said, “Seeing all the work displayed together at the river’s end book story gave everyone a real sense of accomplishment. We’re thankful to Bill and Mindy for allowing us to display the artwork. It was wonderful to see the turnout and how proud the kids were of their work as they showed it to parents and guests.”
In conclusion she said, “I know the students enjoyed the process and they learned so much. I’m very proud of all of them.”