Photo collage of John Love students and teachers working

John Love art project blooms into display at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

June 15, 2022 – Using brush strokes, bright colors, and even their hands, Pre-K students at John Love Early Center were able to transform an art project into real world knowledge about insects and plant life.

“As a class, students painted an insect and flower,” says Pre-Kindergarten teacher Kimberly Willis. “Next, they painted their hands and placed handprints on each object. The handprints represent how the pollen moves from the insect to the flower.” 

According to school director Sonya McSwain, the art project was the culminating activity in a series of lessons about the anatomy of a flower and pollination. Four- and five-year-olds spent a unit learning about “all aspects of plants,” including their parts and their life cycle. Students planted seeds, documented growth, and even maintained a plant box in the school’s garden.  

But it would only be a matter of time before their artwork transitioned from the classroom to an even larger audience. Thanks to an ongoing collaboration between Duval County Public Schools and Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, their pieces were incorporated into the annual “Art in the Garden” Event.  

“It feels amazing to know that my students’ work will be on display at the zoo,” says Wilson. “The pieces are colorful and will bring a little sunshine to any space. To sum up their reaction, students let out a ‘WOW’ and clapped.” 

School Board Vice Chair Kelly Coker, who serves as the Chairperson for the zoo’s Education Committee, says that the annual “Art in the Garden” program regularly features the work of local and regional artists. But this year, committee members wanted to include student art in the event.  

It’s an exciting opportunity teachers say reflects the hands-on learning daily taking place at the school every single day. 

“Through our doors, you will observe students exploring, creating, problem-solving, collaborating, and developing social emotional skills,” says Willis. “Hands-on projects will increase engagement by actively involving students. Students retain information better by doing the work instead of listening to a teacher lecture.” 

“We have happy children who cannot wait to come to school,” says Pre-K teacher Bridget Moore. “I have been in Pre-K for the past 14 years, and I have never experienced the many, many opportunities to have such an array of hands-on activities for our children.”  

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