Imprinting the Future with Bookbinding

Art room windows

The “Starry Night” art room

Partners in the Arts (PIA) founder Joan Oates and director Liz Sheehan visited Spring Run Elementary in Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) to see part of a book-making teacher workshop organized by art teacher Michele Kelly. Michele was Spring Run’s Teacher of the Year in 2010, and Spring Run was named the county’s Most Welcoming School by the Chesterfield County Council of PTAs.

School Core Values Brought to Life

Spring Run was the recipient of a PIA Engaging Creative Thinkers (ECT) award for the project Tracks From the Past, Imprinting the Future. It celebrates the school’s tenth anniversary, as well as the tenth anniversary of CCPS’s core values of respect, responsibility, honesty, and accountability. Students studied and wrote about the recent history of their school and community, interviewing teachers and local residents. They worked with ceramicist David Camden to create an art work that symbolizes the core values and that will hold a time capsule of the students’ writing and art.

Making Books and Connections

The first part of the workshop was led by artist and art book maker Diana Detamore, who is one of the visual arts studio school faculty at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and has taught at PIA’s Joan Oates Institute summer course.

A mosaic of painted tiles

Student painted tiles

Diana showed the group a fascinating array of hand-made books and journals created from recycled materials such as cereal boxes, grocery bags, old notebooks, and de-accessioned library books. She provided teachers with a handy how-to guide, and they spent the rest of the workshop creating their own journals. The educators then took these skills back to the classroom to help students make journals for their research and design ideas.

Art All Day

Principal Sandra Blankenship said work on the project was “not to be isolated in the art room,” and instead could be a part of the school day’s science, social studies, writing, and reading time. She was committed to arts integration, recognizing that this approach could take getting used to for some. Spring Run is a school clearly dedicated to children’s (and teachers’) creative expression!


Partners in the Arts (PIA) awarded Engaging Creative Thinkers (ECT) grants to teachers from 1994 to 2021. These grants made possible over 200 innovative, interdisciplinary projects in Richmond area schools. Since then, the PIA consortium has supported both educator professional development and in-school project implementation through the Joan Oates Institute for Integrated Learning.

The ECT Awards provided opportunities for teachers to reach all students across content areas, while developing critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication, and citizenship, preparing students to be “life ready.” ECT projects engaged a class, grade-level or whole school to connecting teachers, students, families, and the community.

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