July 07, 2016

Arbor Day art contest encourages trees and teachers to grow

Author: Valerie Kaufmann
Source: NYSUT Communications

arbor dayElementary teacher Diana Germinario makes her students excited about art - both inside of the classroom and out.

Germinario, a K-5 art teacher in the Hicksville Public School District, has been teaching for 13 years. She is a member of the Hicksville Congress of Teachers.

Before teaching, Germinario was a graphic designer in New York City. It was the birth of her children, and connection with their art teacher, that encouraged her to return to school to get her master's degree in teaching.

"I love both," Germinario said of her jobs, past and present, "but I work with all the kids in the school... I get to see and work with them, and make them into great artists."

A student on track to being one of those "great artists" is Dutch Lane Elementary school 5th grader Maheen Naqvi - the winner of this year's New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Arbor Day Poster Competition.

The contest, with participants from elementary schools across the state, encourages students to make their own poster adhering to a theme, chosen each year by the DEC. This year's theme was, "Un-FIR-Getable Forests."

Naqvi's work was selected from more than 2,000 entries, and she got to attend a special celebration at the State Capital in Albany. There, she signed copies of her artwork, printed onto bookmarks to be placed in schools and libraries across New York.

At Dutch Lane Elementary School, Germinario had her entire 5th grade class participate in the contest, citing how important it is for young students to learn about the necessity of trees, and how they impact the well-being of the environment.

Germinario has had Naqvi in her class since she started kindergarten. Teaching students for five years straight allows the teacher a unique opportunity.

"I can scaffold their learning," she explained, "I know their learning style and they know my teaching style. They can take their prior knowledge and use it for the next year."

What excites Germinario most, however, is what happens after students have left school. She says students often come back to visit, and tell her about their new careers in an art-related field.

"Kids don't realize when they're little, they think the only thing you can do (with art) is be an art teacher…" She said, "…But there are so many fields they can go into in the arts."