ELKO — Everybody has a different story and there are many ways to tell it. That’s the idea that Elko County School District educators, partnered with Great Basin College and the Veterans Resource Center, are conveying to students and veterans alike this January.
The Veterans and Students: Message of a Mask event will be held Jan. 3 and 17 at Carlin Combined Schools. The collaborative event invites veterans to participate in creating a clay mask with students as part of an effort to promote reflection, healing, patriotism and learning.
The idea began a few years ago when Adobe Middle School English teacher Joy Young came across an article in National Geographic entitled “The Art of Recovery.” The article addressed how U.S. veterans with invisible wounds, such as PTSD or brain injuries, were participating in a type of art geared toward promoting expression and healing.
The article discussed how veterans were constructing masks and readers were invited to “read our soldiers’ masks and the stories they tell.”
After viewing these masks, Young decided to incorporate this into her classroom by studying the Art of Recovery and was joined by other Adobe staff, including art teacher Pam Wells.
“We decided to study the Art of Recovery. We interpret soldiers’ masks, then create masks ourself to celebrate who we are as seventh-graders,” said Young.
This year Young and Wells collaborated to make a YouTube video teaching seventh-grade students how soldiers use art therapy, specifically masks, to work through some of their invisible injuries. Students interpret soldiers masks, blog about them and then learn to create their own paper masks. Young inspires her students by asking them, “Do you have a story to tell?”
The video helped bring the project to more classrooms this year and has now found its way to Carlin Combined Schools.
Christopher Noren, ceramic artist and art teacher in Carlin, decided to have his students study the Art of Recovery and is inviting veterans to join them in creating clay masks at the school. Veterans are invited to visit from 9:30 to 12:30 both days. Transportation will be available at the Great Basin College Veterans Resource Center, leaving at 9 a.m. and returning at 1 p.m.
Coordinators hope the event will foster patriotism in the younger community and be a learning experience for everyone involved.
Adobe Middle School teacher James Brawley is also a veteran. Brawley knows veterans with PTSD and the impact it can have on their lives. He feels the event is a positive way for veterans to tell their story and an opportunity for students to learn from them.
“I think they want to be helpful to other people,” said Brawley. “I thought this program was pretty awesome because it just gives them an outlet to talk about the feelings that they’re bottling up so that they’re not keeping them in.”
The Great Basin College Library will host an exhibit in February displaying masks for the entire month. Any participating veteran or student is invited to display their artwork in the exhibit.