Art interactive paints smiles on students’ faces


Photo by Mrs. DeWinkeleer

The art interactive class takes a quick break from working on their mosaic turkey art projects. Members of this class work with "helpers" as they learn how to create a variety of pieces of art.

By Meghan Onessimo, Londonderry High School

Take a peek inside room 401 during F period, and you’ll hear talking and laughing. You’ll see kids gluing, painting and cutting paper to create art projects. You’ll notice students helping other students as they create their latest masterpiece.  

The mood is fun in room 401, and the creativity is flowing. 

Art teacher Mrs. Hjelm’s art interactive class is a place where students with special needs and “helpers” work together.

“Everyone’s learning from it. Whether it’s the kids in the special ed program learning how to create art projects or the helpers learning how cool special needs kids can be,” senior TJ Ruzicka said. “It’s the time of day when the kids with special needs get to do something cool and spend time with a variety of kids.”

The class is so diverse, and kids work at so many different levels. There’s a lot of flexibility with projects, so students utilize their time and everyone works at their own pace. 

“This class can improve their motor skills, and I’ve seen improvement in students,” Hjelm said. “It’s fun to watch them grow.”

Photo by Meghan Onessimo
Senior Meagan O’Leary laughs while working on her leaf project.

This course is a “feel good” class and students who take it find it is extremely rewarding. 

“People can learn how to be good citizens and help students feel more accepted,” Hjelm said. “You can see how autism affects kids your age and you can learn how to be helpful.”

Mrs. Hjelm is the only teacher who offers this course, and it’s only offered once a year. Hjelm has been teaching the class for at least ten years. Art interactive was one of the first ever interactive classes at LHS. 

“If you’re thinking about taking the class, don’t be afraid of it,” Hjelm said. “I haven’t had anyone walk away from it.”

There are many fun elements to the class, such as sketchbook Friday’s, working with clay, painting, tracing, coloring, and much more. There is also a project at the end of the course where the helpers create an art project for everyone to participate in using everyone’s skillset.

“I love this class because I love doing art, and it’s nice to have someone help me when I need it,” student Meagan O’Leary said. “It is my favorite class of the day, and I always look forward to it. Students should take the class because you get to make fun projects that aren’t too hard. Sometimes, projects seem impossible to me, but working with another person makes them easier.”

O’Leary remembers a time when she was the one helping the “helper.”

Photo by Meghan Onessimo
Senior Quinten Miller focuses while gluing tissue paper onto his maple leaf.

“I actually had to help Meghan because she was really slow at gluing tissue paper, and we laughed the entire class period,” she said. “I just love the class.”

Students in the class agree that the class gives them a sense of fulfillment and promotes kindness and understanding, something the world needs more of these days.

“The class isn’t hard at all, yet the enjoyment you get from seeing the kids do something, that to most people just seems commonplace or like a given, is just amazing,” TJ Ruzicka said. “Seeing them smile, laugh, and really enjoy the little things is worth more than anything you can get taught in a textbook.”

This story was originally published on The Lancer Spirit on November 14, 2019.