Creating student stewards through art

Art teacher Linda Burns has her students creating an art show using recycled materials.

Linda Burns teaches art through themes. Two years ago, the Moorestown resident and art teacher at Saint Anthony Padua School in Camden starting the year by having her students create passports, which were filled throughout the course of the year as students “visited” new countries and learned about new cultures with each lesson.

This year, Burns has been teaching through the lens of sustainability and wants her students to understand the importance of being good stewards to the earth. Her lessons will culminate with a show at the school on Thursday, April 19, which will feature her students’ artwork made almost entirely from recycled materials.

Burns said art has always played a significant role in her life. She said her parents encouraged her passion for the subject through lessons and art supplies. By the time Burns was accepted to Rutgers University, she knew she wanted to major in art.

Linda Burns.

The daughter of a school teacher, Burns said her father’s career also inspired her, so she also became certified to teach. For 30 years, Burns taught art in the public school system before retiring.

She was retired when a friend who worked at Saint Anthony Padua informed her they were in need of an art teacher, and from there, Burns found herself teaching pre-K through eighth grade at the school two days a week.

Burns took with her a teaching method she had utilized in years past. She said when she was teaching in the public school system, she was inspired by a colleague who taught art through themes and had each theme culminate with a show. She said she started incorporating this method into the way she teaches.

Last year, Burns taught her students through a Renaissance theme. Students created medieval inspired pieces, which were on display for the “A Knight to Remember” art show. Students and teachers came dressed in Renaissance garb, students danced around a maypole and a falconer brought his pet falcon.

Burns said she has been incorporating recycled materials into her lessons for years. She said art supplies can be quite expensive, and art departments are not usually given a large budget.

She said this year’s sustainability lessons have focused on vulnerable animals and geographic locations. For instance, after discussing the rainforest, second graders created jungle scenes incorporating endangered animals into their work.

Her students work in a variety of mediums from painting to sculpture. Burns said she has had friends collecting plastic bottles, lids, egg cartons and other materials.

The show will host two black light areas with one displaying artwork related to the Great Barrier Reef and the other featuring a tropical rainforest scene. The night’s festivities will also feature a fashion show with clothing made from recycled materials, and Burns said she is ordering seedlings from the forestry department to give away to students and their families.

Her goal for the art show is to celebrate students’ work but also to teach them something they can take with them after the show is done.

“I hope that they’ll glean an appreciation for the Earth and recycling, and they can become better stewards to the Earth,” Burn said. “Through entire theme and the entire school year, I want them to be cognizant of that.”

The art show will take place on Thursday, April 19, at Saint Anthony of Padua School. Burns said she is looking forward to spending the night with her students and their families as they celebrate sustainability together.