Middle schoolers make art out of cans for charity

Student’s engineering and creative skills were put to the test for the third annual Tuscaloosa Canstruction Jr. event. 

Canstruction is an usual charity that turns a traditional can drive into a local competition and exhibit. The event showcases local students design skills through structures made completely out of canned food. All food will be donated to the West Alabama Food drive.

“I’ve really learned how to work further with people,” said Maddie Adams, a 6th grader at Tuscaloosa Magnet Middle school who is participating in the event. “Patience is something we have to go through a lot and be open minded about different ideas.”

Adams idea for the school’s theme was chosen by her peers. She said they collaborated as a grade, presented ideas and then voted. Their construction represents crayons inside of a crayon box, and will read "168 Brilliant Students" across the front.

“It represents our students and how diverse we are,” said Adams. “We color outside of the lines.”

The Magnet Middle school has a team of 8 members all in the 6th grade. Stephanie Thomas, a science and math teacher at the school said that she chose students based on grades, test scores and a small application. Thomas and Lavanda Wagenheim, the coordinator for the International Bachelorette program, are leading the team for their third year.

“This project is right up our alley,” said Wagenheim. “We have a lot of very creative staff. We like to look at different stuff for our curriculum.”

The first Canstruction, Jr. event was started in 2014 by the request of Superintendent Dr. McKendrick said Jeffery Schultz, the Fine Arts Coordinator for Tuscaloosa City Schools. Schulz said the event benefits from the partnership with the Arts Council Tuscaloosa. This is there largest event to date with 17 teams entered.

“This allows students to address real-world problems in the case, hunger, and model their understanding in creative ways,” said Schulz.

During the competition, five members are allowed to build and one is tasked with unpacking the cans. The awards include Best Meal, Most Creative and Students Choice. Two local awards will be given for Structural Integrity and Best Use of Labels. Schultz said this year’s judges include a school board member, a retired art educator and a professor of art from the University of Alabama. This year the event is also offering two people choice awards through online Facebook voting.

The Tuscaloosa Magnet Middle school has won the most creative award for the past two years. Wagenheim said their can drive has been going on since September. The middle school has created an in-school competition for the groups who collect the most cans. The winning team will receive an ice cream party. The school has received can donations from individuals as well as companies such as Walmart and Publix.

“It’s more than just awards,” said 6th grader Zoey Wilson who is a member of the team. “It’s a good feeling to give to other people and see them get things that they normally wouldn’t have.”

Shultz said the program allows students to engage in art and design while integrating their math and science skills.

“When they create something, they own their learning in a way that is very powerful,” said Shultz. “Being able to contribute so positively to our local community makes this a major win-win for our students and the West Alabama region.”

The event is open to the public from February 29 through March 4 at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center. Voting for the people choice award can be reached through the event’s online Facebook page or at https://www.facebook.com/events/1553481541640643/

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