Mr. Coakley’s Grade 1 art class created paper birds in the style of Ashley Bryan’s illustrations in Beautiful Blackbird—the story of a single blackbird who was deemed most beautiful and of other birds who wished for a touch of painted black feathers, wanting to be beautiful too. This tale from the Ila-speaking people of Zambia celebrates beauty from within and diversity in all shades. With this poignant inspiration brewing, students practiced self-direction and independent thinking in every step of their artistic process. They selected which color construction paper they wanted to use and drew their interpretation of flying and perched birds in pencil. They then cut out their bird drawings prepared for the next step.

“Is this good enough?” One student asked Mr. Coakley to which he replied with reassurance, “I think so.”

Mr. Coakley then demonstrated the collage technique of pasting a contrasting color circle as the bird’s eye. He also showed examples of adding ornamental details with black marker in a similar style to Ashley Bryan’s illustrations, like the markings on the birds in the story. The students hurried back to their workstations to apply what they learned, adding their own rendition of markings on their birds. DCD’s visual arts program is more about process than product, and each bird created is unique to the child making it! The solid foundation established in early grades gives children an opportunity to develop the confidence, creativity, and appreciation of the artistic process that flowers in all areas of their academic experience. We are excited to follow the work of these first-graders as they practice expressing themselves in many mediums!