Trashformations and Schoolhouse on the Dam Beach

Posted on May 17, 2012


Everywhere we looked this morning we saw piles of castoff Stuff turned into astonishing sculptures and kinetic displays and things defying description.  They were entries in the Green Elk Rapids Trashformations contest.  Miss Sadie and the Cowboy posed at the Giant Frame for their ArtRapids! portrait.

We headed to the Dam Beach to see why all those kids were hanging out on the beach on a schoolday.

Teacher Rich Roman had one posse of sixth-graders making watercolors about water.  (Mr. Roman! Is it okay if we get some sand in the wet paint to make it kind of textured?   Sure, why don’t you try it? )  Artist Joani Braun—the 2012 Elk Rapids Citizen of the Year—was across the way surrounded by more kids. Mr. Roman said they’d all be back in the afternoon to write essays about their morning experience.

Over on the other side of the dune more kids planted native wildflowers and beach grasses and shrubs to help stabilize the beach and filter runoff.

For just a moment I glimpsed their distant ancestors hauling water up from the Bay in buckets to tend growing things. Then the breeze shifted and they were 21st Century kids again.

Stretched out along the shoreline we found another of the quirky Trashformations entries. This one resembled a really long clothesline where repurposed t-shirts and towels danced in the breeze next to bottle sculptures.  It was very engaging.

While I was taking pictures of the clothesline the Cowboy was flirting with the girls. They came running. Oh, look at the cute dogs!  Can we pet them?  OK, so there’s a cloud of girls surrounding the Cowboy, cooing over him, and here come the boys. The boys took to Miss Sadie. The Duo were in heaven.

Then it was time to leave. We met some more volunteers on our way back to the car.  Lots of them have no children in school. They just turned out for Elk Rapids kids, all of ’em.

So lessee, what were the kids doing on the beach on a schoolday?

  • Learning about ecology, recycling, protecting water resources, native plants. Science.
  • Making watercolors with a working artist. Art.
  • Writing essays. English.
  • Studying this patch of ground, and how it came to be here in just this way. History.

I would not put it past those wily volunteers to work a little math in there, too. (If we plant these 12 inches apart how many plants will we need to make a row from here to that spot over there on the dune?)

And so, in one way and another, the Sixth Grade learned that people in the community value them, and their future. They learned how to be responsible grownups from people who had perfected the art.  I tell you, when things work Around Here they work really well. An excellent day all the way around.