Arts fundraiser teaches students small changes make big difference

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Second graders Grace McAfee and Levi Mancuso and first grader Elise Becker sort lighthouse bookmarks left over from a fundraiser with art teacher Gloria Greenling.  Second graders Grace McAfee and Levi Mancuso and first grader Elise Becker sort lighthouse bookmarks left over from a fundraiser with art teacher Gloria Greenling.

UPPER TOWNSHIP – The arts teach students that small changes can make a big difference – layering inks can change a color scheme dramatically, or a single brushstroke can bring depth to a painting.


Upper Township art teacher Gloria Greenling combined that principle with something she already knew for certain, that kids want to help.

What resulted was a printmaking assignment for fifth graders and a preschool through third grade effort in design that raised nearly $2,000 for local Hurricane Sandy relief.

“Art expresses emotion and the kids here were feeling so close to the storm and they wanted to help,” said Greenling. “I wanted to show them that no matter their ages, no matter the scale of the project, they could do something to contribute.”

Students in preschool through second grade at the Upper Township Primary School created lighthouse bookmarks that were laminated and offered for sale during parent-teacher conferences. The colorful bookmarks run the gamut in design and technique, from exuberant scribbles to careful coloring.

“We looked at pictures of lighthouses, and talked about what they do and their connection to the shore,” said Greenling, “and then the kids got to work.”

Each primary school student worked off a template of three lighthouse shapes, decorating them individually. Parent volunteers then worked with Greenling to cut out each bookmark and laminate them.

“The kids shared stories about their grandparents and friends and family in Ocean City, and how the storm affected people,” Greenling said, noting that even the youngest students understood that the work would be sold to help others. “Everyone really had the sense that we were lucky during Sandy and wanted to help others that suffered.”

In the Upper Township Elementary School, which houses third through fifth graders, Greenling devised a more complicated printmaking project.

“I only had fifth grade in the elementary school in the fall, and I had wanted to cover printmaking with them – so I shifted the focus to the shore,” she said. “We used classroom resources – smart boards – to look at depictions of seabirds, fish and the landscape, and to preview the printmaking process.”

The printmaking project required the students to scratch their illustrations into pieces of Styrofoam board, to layer on the water-based ink and to make their prints on a variety of papers. “There was such detail in design, and children found ways to incorporate mistakes into their larger work,” said Greenling. “They layered on colors and experimented with paper choices.”

The fifth graders’ limited edition prints sold during conference week, as did the bookmarks in the primary school.

“This project was a little more complicated, but the parents really supported it and recognized the quality of the work,” she said. 

In all, the elementary school’s fifth grade’ prints netted $461 while the primary school’s combined grades sold $1,329 of bookmarks.

Greenling designated the funds to go to the NJEA’s Hurricane Sandy Back to School Fund, which was started in November to help schools in the hardest hit areas recover.

“While districts must get schools up and running, it will require NJEA (New Jersey Education Association) members to make them inviting and welcoming places for learning,” according to state’s education association. “Our members invest significant personal resources every year to do that. This year, in some schools, what they have created over a career has been lost.”

More information on the fund is located on the NJEA website at

Fifth grader Rocky Vespertino's fish print. Fifth grader Rocky Vespertino's fish print.

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