Lorette students document tough school year

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This article was published 02/07/2021 (405 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Students at Dawson Trail School in Lorette have compiled their thoughts and feelings on the COVID-19 pandemic into a unique multimedia coffee table book.

Dawson Trail: COVID Tales aims to give readers “the COVID experience through the eyes of a child.”

The hardcover book contains original poems, stories, letters, photography, drawings, and paintings from every student at the school.

JORDAN ROSS / THE CARILLON Eric Stuart, a Grade 7 student at Dawson Trail School in Lorette, created the artwork chosen for the book’s cover.

Vice-principal Evi Klostermaier said the idea emerged from a brainstorming session more than six months ago. She and Principal Randy Engel wanted to give students a tangible keepsake to remember a school year defined by face masks, cohorts, and endless rounds of hand sanitizer.

“We wanted this to be a reflection of how they saw this year,” Klostermaier said.

Students started producing content for the book in January. It was published earlier this month. The division’s visual art consultant, Gabrielle Doll, helped coordinate the project.

Klostermaier said younger students tended to focus on the experience of being isolated from their friends, while older students pondered some of the societal effects of the pandemic. In many cases, artistic expression gave students a way to convey thoughts and feelings that would otherwise be difficult to process.

“COVID makes me feel teal because my grandpa died from COVID,” a Grade 1 student wrote on a page filled with captioned, colour-coded self-portraits.

Embarking on a collaborative project also gave students a way to interact with friends in other cohorts that they couldn’t visit with in-person.

“It’s a stress that they can’t see their friends and mingle as much as they normally could,” Klostermaier said.

In a release last Thursday, Education Minister Cliff Cullen acknowledged the pressure that the pandemic put on “students, teachers, school staff, administrators, parents and the education community.”

Engel said the book documents a global event that students will one day tell their children and grandchildren about. He hopes the book made students realize that their thoughts and feelings on the pandemic matter.

“We always tell kids that they have something important to say now.”

Grade 7 student Eric Stuart created the book’s cover image using permanent marker, alcohol markers, and pencil crayons. It depicts a dark forest filled with coronavirus particles and face masks. In the centre, green grass is growing around a syringe of vaccine that Stuart said signifies hope.

In addition to the cover, Stuart also contributed a second drawing inside, of a skull, inspired his favourite holiday, Halloween. His teacher didn’t have to convince him to participate in the project.

“I really mostly did it just ‘cause I really like drawing,” he said.

Stuart spent the school year learning in the gymnasium, which he said had both pros (movies projected on a big screen) and cons (echoes and noise).

Stuart said there are two things he’s most looking forward to when the pandemic ends.

“Actually being able to go to my friends’ houses, and having birthday parties.”

An avid swimmer, he’s also excited for pools to reopen.

Dawson Trail School printed 300 copies of the book and offered them for $20 each. Engel said those who didn’t get a copy before the school year ended can call the school office, leave a message, and pick up their copy in September.

 

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