Dreamcatchers Defend the Sky

Second Graders Keep Birds Safe… With Art!

Mrs. Gum poses proudly with her two students in the library, David (left) and Joseph (right).

Jade Lee and Alyssa Chang

The dome-like glass structure on top of the library is the most eye-catching part of campus. Its inside is beautiful, too: the natural light that kaleidoscopes through the glass results in a light, pleasant atmosphere, perfect for reading. But everything good comes with its downsides–the glass dome reflected a copious amount of light from the hot Daegu sun. As a result, birds would fly into the library windows and get injured, or worse, lose their lives.

Since the establishment of the library, this has been a common problem. The previous librarian, Mr. Wallauer, was the first to suggest that students hand-make crafts to paste on the library windows, a colorful signal to the birds that there was a wall ahead. The result was an array of colorful owls that were pasted to the right of the library’s windows–the reflectiveness of the lamination sheets would bounce light back to the bird, into the bird’s eyes, while the vivid colors and owl shapes were intended to scare them off altogether.

It soon came time to revamp the colorful window decorations, as the color and sheen of the owls faded with time. Mrs. Gum, the elementary art teacher, worked closely with our current librarian Ms. Shin to come up with designs for her students to adorn the library. The solution that the two agreed on was that dreamcatchers would be a great way to stop the reflection of light, while complementing the natural, yet modern interior of the plant-filled library.

“The designs are really good and colorful. I think they are better than the owl designs that existed before, because the dreamcatchers create a more ‘uplifting’ mood to the library,” remarked Ms. Shin. She’s excited to continue a tradition of protecting the birds: “I am already thinking of new designs for when these dreamcatchers fade!”

Having helped students create both the previous owl designs and the new dreamcatchers, Mrs. Gum took some time to remark on her experience working with elementary students on a project that would benefit DIS. “As a teacher, I learned that kids really enjoy giving back to their community. They also have a lot of pride in the work that they create, especially when they see their work serving a higher purpose.”

The process behind creating these colorful bird-distractors is also worth noting. When asked about the process of making these decorations, Mrs. Gum explained: “Initially, we tried to use leftover lamination plastic. I am very enthusiastic about upcycling, so I tried to use as much leftover lamination plastic as possible, since those are hard to recycle. From there, we [used] a bowl to outline the circular part of the dreamcatcher. Then, I let students use their artistic freedom to free-hand designs in black permanent markers and other colored markers.”

Once the bird-distractors were finished, the second graders were more than excited about their recent contribution to the school community.

“Designing my own dreamcatcher however I wanted to was the best part of the whole project!””

— Joseph, a 2nd grade

His equally ecstatic classmate David chimed in, giving his insight on why creating an original design was interesting: “We got to learn that dreamcatchers are a Native American invention, and I never knew about that before until we learned about it in class!” The cultural, artistic, and practical value of this project serves as a great example of hands-on projects in the classroom.

Mrs. Kaschub, one of the second grade teachers, proudly mentioned that “it’s great when students are able to see their hard work showcased around the school. After the dreamcatchers were hung up on the library windows, I remember walking my class to P.E. and they were all beaming with pride as we walked by and they saw them. They are so proud to see their work displayed, especially in a location that allows everyone to take notice!”

When asked what she hoped for her students to have learned from this experience, she added: “Aside from improving their art skills while creating these dreamcatchers, I hope they learned that the art they create can have a positive impact. Not only do these dreamcatchers serve the purpose of protecting birds from flying into the windows and getting injured, but the beauty they exude helps make our campus feel warm and welcoming.”

It seems that through an art project done in class, the second graders were able to satisfy the administrator’s requests, add a decorative touch to the library, and give the DIS community (and the birds that fly over it) a helping hand. We hope to look out for more opportunities where elementary students can show off their hard work.