Students at St. Agatha School celebrated Earth Day April 22 with a full schedule of art and nature activities.

Students at St. Agatha School celebrated Earth Day April 22 with a full schedule of art and nature activities.

Outside on the playground, first- and second-grade students created sunprints using shells and flowers on light-sensitive paper, flew kites they've decorated themselves and painted pictures of trees using sticks as paintbrushes.

In front of the school, sixth- through eighth-graders built temporary art installations out of rocks, sticks and dandelions. Around the corner, another group prepared to learn the art of ice sculpting.

Indoors, options abounded. They could be making glass mosaics, creating clay relief pieces, decorating cakes or eating lunch while listening to a bluegrass band and watching a mime.

"We're trying to combine a whole lot of things, from Earth Day to 'green' art," said Joan Matsell, St. Agatha principal. "In religion, we're looking at social justice issues, and one of those aspects is caring for God's creation."

The art day was an initiative of the Artists in the Schools committee, including parent volunteer Mary Hackett.

"We decided that we just wanted to try something different," Hackett said.

Previously, they arranged for artists to visit on separate days throughout the school year. This year, for the first time, St. Agatha welcomed all the artists on one school day, setting it aside for art and art alone.

"This is a completely different curriculum, immersing the kids in art and challenging them in different ways," Hackett said.

Planning for the daylong event began last October.

"It's good to see it come together and see it work," Hackett said, standing outside the cafeteria as music drifted through the hallway along with the laughter of elementary students. "We wanted the students to be as excited as we were."

Meanwhile, art teacher Julie Freeman was teaching a class of middle schoolers how to sculpt houses out of clay.

"It all seemed to kind of mesh together," Freeman said. "The clay is obviously something that works with Earth Day."

Many of the activities were demonstrated by parents who showcased their own careers or hobbies.

A professional baker, who is also a parent of one of the school's 250 students, helped the sixth- through eighth-graders cover circular cakes with colorful frosting flowers.

And parent Mike Orr, who runs an art framing company, led his group in creating temporary nature sculptures.

"It's teaching the kids balance and patience," he said, pointing out a thick stick balanced on end atop a rock.

"Not all art has to be permanent."