By Karen Billing
Congregation Beth Am Preschool’s junior kindergarten (Gesher Program) recently held its annual Zoozeum exhibit at San Diego Jewish Academy, showing off the students’ artistic interpretations of the animal kingdom.
The project began in January after a visit to the San Diego Zoo. Each child picked an animal from their visit and teachers Louisa Karam, Dita Benarieh and Rimma Reytblat led them in 13 different art projects based on their chosen animal. Each project was done in a particular artist’s style—Monet’s impressionism, Picasso’s cubism and Jewish artist Marc Chagall’s stained glass (the children used clearphane paper instead of glass).
The biggest art project is their paper maché animals, made from recycled containers and painted and pruned with help from their parents.
“It’s definitely a family project,” said Karam.
The results were spectacular: A lion with a full hairy mane; a long-legged giraffe; a fuzzy panda and a peacock with beautiful feathers; to name just a few of the 20-animal menagerie.
“The children’s faces beam with pride,” said Denise Neifeld, preschool director of the young artists “They really feel a sense of accomplishment and self worth. So much self esteem is gained from this amazing adventure.”
On Zoozeum night, their creations were set up for viewing but each child also practiced public speaking, talking about where their animal comes from, what it eats and how its name is said in Hebrew.
At the end of their presentation, each child presented an unknown fact about their animal. One such fact was: “Did you know after koalas eat eucalyptus their breath smells like cough drops?”
The reception, of course, featured animal cookies decorated by the children.