Around the UFT

Hillcrest HS Spring Festival

An ‘Elephant Walk’ and more

Miller Photography Dance students perform.
Miller Photography Rubin (center) and Ferruso with a student and her elephant tribute to music.
Miller Photography Music instructor David Tomlet leads the string orchestra.

The annual Hillcrest HS Spring Festival featured art, music, dance and a parade of elephants — all of them papier-mâché, created by teams of students, for a display called “The Elephant Walk.” “The elephants were pretty large, about 3 feet long,” said Chapter Leader Michael Ferruso. The afternoon festivities on May 31 drew teachers, parents and children to the school in Jamaica, Queens, which has about 3,500 students. Other student artists displayed their self-portraits, performed traditional dances from other cultures or played in the school band. “The students did a lot of work, from creating elephants to rehearsing, and there was a lot of work from the stage crew,” Ferruso said. Elise Rubin, a visual arts teacher, said she got the idea for the papier-mâché animals last year, when giraffes were featured. “It was a big hit,” she said. “We got so much positive feedback.” This year, Rubin and fellow art teachers Karoline Varoski and Jessica Barnum came up with the idea of elephants. “They have a lower center of gravity — the giraffes tend to fall over — and gave students more room to paint their ideas,” Rubin said. Students worked in teams of two or three to construct the elephants out of cardboard and newspaper, and to come up with a theme for their creations. Some elephants were painted in bright colors; others became a canvas for collages to raise awareness of AIDS, homelessness, pollution, police brutality and conservation — including saving the elephant. In addition to learning how to construct and decorate the elephant, students learned the art of collaboration when it came to selecting a theme. “They had to come to agreement and compromise, a life skill,” Rubin said. 

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