Before school buildings closed because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, fourth-graders at Freedom Trail Elementary School used their art skills to draw a connection to some of Ohio's earliest residents.

The school's entire fourth grade -- about 120 students, art teacher Rob Jones said -- collaborated last month on an art project called "Every Earthwork Tells a Story."

The results were to have been exhibited at the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park near Chillicothe starting in mid-April, though the park's visitor center is closed to the public "until further notice," per the park's website, due to the pandemic.

Students used burlap, string and their imagination to create fiber works inspired by Mound Builders, a term for various American Indian tribes who built mounds for burials, as well as religious, ceremonial and other reasons.

Jones said the art is not intended to resemble any sort of earthwork but rather to serve as an exercise in connecting education with imagination.

"It was organic and freeform, using provided materials and prompts," he said.

"It's like abstract art; we could just make whatever because it looks cool," fourth-grader Nathanael Richter said.

"We learned that there is no limit to the shapes that they built mounds in, so we could create in any shape," said fourth-grader Wilma Hjarne.

While the project was not directly related to the students' classroom instruction, fourth-graders are learning about ancient Ohio people as part of state curriculum standards, Jones said.

"Studying prehistoric Ohio cultures is meant to provide a foundation for future learning of U.S. history," said Desiree Gillman, fourth-grade teacher at Freedom Trail. "In fourth grade, students study various groups of people that have lived in Ohio over time. Students also analyze and recognize that interactions among groups resulted in cooperation, conflict and compromise."

"There are different things the mounds were used for, from burials to different ceremonies to storing artifacts," fourth-grader Vansika Mallampati said.

"I find that when lessons are covered cross-curriculum, there is an increase in student engagement, rigor and learning transfer," Gillman said.

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