It’s the season for spreading joy, and Danielle Eden, a first grade teacher at McKinley Elementary, enlisted her students to do exactly that through a ‘positivity during the pandemic’ chalk art project.

Under Eden’s guidance students excitedly selected their uplifting message, created an original design, and rushed all over the neighborhood to write it in chalk.

“I’m really proud of my students. They’re only six and seven so to see them to take such initiative and care so much about where they were going to chalk and what they wanted the community to see really brought us together as a class and it makes me feel really inspired that they care so much about their community,” said Eden.

Many of the messages were about spreading love and supporting one another, while other drawings focused on fighting the pandemic together by wearing a mask and thanking essential workers. This reflected a wonderful budding social consciousness from the young students and demonstrates how teachers can help children learn from difficulties of the pandemic.

“It’s been such a challenging time and I think there really needs to be a lot of emphasis on social emotional learning. Oftentimes my students say things like ‘I want COVID to be over, I want to be back in the classroom,” said Eden. “So having something where we could be positive and spread positivity kind of uplifted us during this challenging time.”

The project incorporated two of SMMUSD’s social justice standards — justice: I know that life is easier for some people and harder for others and the reasons for that are not always fair, and advocacy: I care about those who are treated unfairly.

The fun chalk art series also taught children lessons on spelling, math, and geography.

Students had to incorporate site words that they are learning in class and use standard units of measurement to layout their design. Every student then picked three places on the Santa Monica map to complete their art and used science skills to track the sunlight on their art at different times of day.

“Project based learning is really important because it means students take a lot of initiative for their own learning,” said Eden. “The learning takes place through the project, so through this project we were learning about our spelling words and measurement and science, so it’s tied into something really meaningful.”

Eden came up with the project idea when she spotted neighborhood chalk art on her walk home from work. Students were especially excited to create the art as they had just read a book on how people in San Diego used murals to uplift the community.