COVID-19 took a metaphorical beating from Mary Belle Gilroy and her art students at Lackawanna Trail High School.
Last week, they hung a piñata replica of the coronavirus that has disrupted their lives from a goal post on the high school’s football field and each gave it a whack.
“I think the kids had a little bit of fun,” Gilroy said. “It really is a rough year for them.”
For a home school assignment during the pandemic, she asked her students in Art III and IV to incorporate the coronavirus into their drawing journals. A few students went all out and Gilroy decided to do the same.
Using an exercise ball as a frame, she began making a paper mache hanging piece and later turned it into a piñata at the suggestion of her 13-year-old son to “beat the coronavirus.”
Using dozens of toilet paper rolls, she modeled it after how the virus looks on an atomic level and filled the inside with party fluff, shredded paper, fast food coupons and some candy.
Gilroy, who has taught at Lackawanna Trail for more than 20 years, said she never really dabbled in performance art before, but always enjoys doing “fun and quirky” projects.
A small group came out to the football field for the unveiling, as she couldn’t hold a large gathering under COVID-19 guidelines.
Gilroy said breaking the piñata was therapeutic in a way, and she hopes it boosted the students’ spirits.
Usually, students can’t wait to finish out the school year, but she said it’s different when the end is suddenly thrust upon them and they have to miss out on rites of passage like the prom.
“It could be disheartening for some of them,” she said.
Toward the end of each school year, Gilroy always hangs an art exhibit in the hallways and lobby of the high school with the goal of showing at least one piece from each of her students.
The school cancellation made it impossible this year, so she organized a virtual viewing instead.
She took photos of the students’ pieces and arranged them in a presentation on ltsd.org for students and their families.
“They put a lot of time, effort and work into what they do when they’re in my classroom,” she said. “Art class is fun, but it’s still work. I want to obviously show the students that what they are doing and learning is valuable and put it out there so people can see.”
She hopes students can continue flexing their creative muscles during the summer.
“We have really good, hardworking kids who use their talents and creative thinking in positive ways,” Gilroy said.