Two Students share artwork with a teacher

Students share the artwork they created with their teachers in Highlands School District

Kids for Kids: For Teachers

Students Use "Super Powers" to Show Teacher Appreciation

Through the past two school years, teachers and students alike have faced many challenges adjusting to instruction and learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to boost the morale of teachers and the self-efficacy of students, Dr. Jason Margolis of the Duquesne University School of Education established the Kids for Kids art exchange program.

According to Margolis, "Kids for Kids was created to further students' social-emotional learning after a period where much human connection was lost. In having students create artwork for teachers based on their interpretation of other students' nominations, we are hoping to both uplift teacher morale as frontline workers, as well as layer in academic components to the creative process for students."

Throughout 2021, students have nominated teachers to receive artwork that fellow student artists have created. Student artists have been identified as students that are creative and in need of social connections and empowerment. The program seeks to boost the artists' confidence by giving them an opportunity to feel proud of themselves and the art work they created. Students develop their learning skills by interpreting the words in the nomination using empathy, literacy, and creativity skills, and ultimately are able to recognize empathy as a "super power."

Artwork in genres include painting, jewelry, and sculpture is scheduled to be presented to about 250 teachers in four Allegheny County school districts (South Fayette, Highlands, Pittsburgh Public, and Mt. Lebanon) as the school year closes over the next two weeks.

Dr. Cathleen Cubelic, Assistant Superintendent of Highlands School District, said "The value of the project is multi-faceted. It has not only allowed us to support the natural value of expression that the arts offer, but also encouraged the idea of gratitude. Our students have been provided an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings and a vehicle to convey them directly through this project. This time has been stressful for both students and staff and the ability to acknowledge those meaningful connections that have sustained them, has been very powerful."

This program has been made possible through support from The Grable Foundation, Duquesne School of Education, and Duquesne's Center for Community Engaged Teaching and Research. With additional support, Dr. Margolis hopes to scale the Kids for Kids concept to an additional module through which students create artwork for similar-aged children in difficult medical or life circumstances.