WILLIAMSTOWN -- Students at Pine Cobble School received a hands-on lesson combining both art and science Friday with the help of a local artist and some not-so-local sea life.
Robin Brickman, who has received recognition for her illustrations in a number of children's books, visited the school to conduct a day-long workshop based on the book "One Night in the Coral Sea."
"I am combining art and science in a hands-on way to access the science behind what someone is making," she explained.
Brickman, who lives in Williamstown with her husband, conducts workshops at schools across the county based on her distinct artwork -- using paper, scissors, paint and glue, she constructs three-dimensional images that appear to come alive.
Brickman said the idea for the workshops came after visiting her own children's classrooms.
"I would go to their class and talk about what I do," she said. "I realized I liked doing these workshops."
As she began visiting more schools, Brickman realized she needed a way to instruct students.
"After five minutes I could tell I was losing them," she said. "I realized I needed some steps for them to refer to, to simplify the instructions."
This led Brickman to develop a five-step approach students follow. Step one, "research," required children use handouts to pick out a creature to create before even touching any art supplies. After that they could draw an outline on paper, cut it out using scissors, and color it in.
Students could create several different creatures relating to a coral reef. After she made a starfish, third-grader Hannah Lane said she loved the experience.
"I loved being creative and artistic," she said.
Other students enjoyed the interactivity of the workshop.
"I like that we got to make art and not just watch," third-grader Samantha Stevenson said.
At the end of the day, Pine Cobble ninth-grader Evan Sanders assisted Brickman in gluing the individual pieces to a large board to create a coral reef.
Assistant Head of School Jay Merselis said the mural will hang on the wall of the lunchroom when it's completed.
"It will be out of the way so no one can lean on it, and it will still be visible for everyone," he said.
Brickman's school visit was funded through the Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire by a grant written by third-grade teacher Nancy Garden.
"I think it's important to bring in outside speakers for kids," she said. "It really broadens their world."
Children benefit from seeing a professional artist at work and being instructed by her, she said.
"I love the fact that it refocuses them to look at things differently. [Brickman] encouraged them to look deeper."
Garden added she was thrilled there is funding available locally to bring additional opportunities to the school.
"We do a lot here already, but doing something to enhance what we do is enriching," she said.
To reach Edward Damon, email