The project allows students from Bard High School Early College, People's Prep Charter School, and Bridges High School to work together after school. The students meet every Tuesday and Wednesday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. with the goal of creating a 12-foot by 16-foot dragon that represents the three schools as one.
This cooperative project aims to bridge the gaps between the three schools and bring students together as part of a shared campus and community.
Bard, Bridges and People's Prep have been sharing the space at the former Camden Street Middle School on Bergen Street since the beginning of the school year. The shared campus, one of several in the city, is part of Newark Public Schools plan to provide space in the district's underutilized buildings to innovative public schools.
Bard, one of four innovative high schools that opened last year, allows students to earn up to 60 college credits while enrolled in high school. The school is modeled after two successful Bard programs in New York City.
"The administrations and staff members of our three Camden campus schools are encouraged to see students emerge from their classes at the end their respective academic days and work together on a project of this magnitude," said Ray Peterson, the principal of Bard. "The students initially bring their passion for art to this project, but in the process of working together, they begin to realize how much more they have in common."
The "Animodule" dragon project is being created in recognition of the Chinese Year of the Dragon. The project is supervised by the Barat Foundation, a local Newark nonprofit that works with inner city schools to create works of art.
Athena Barat, an artist from the foundation who has been guiding the students, said her role is to persuade students that "their differences are only surface level and that similarities need to be the focus of uniting the three schools."
While working with the students, she emphasizes the importance of using symbols to relay a message to everyone throughout the Newark community.
Students come together twice a week to focus on learning about ancient traditions while incorporating values that connect all three schools.
Yolanda Lewis, a ninth grade student at Bard, compared the dragon project to the school community. "Dragons are a representation of the school," Yolanda said. "Like our community here, they show us that we need to be humble and respect ourselves and each other in order to grow as one."
While students brainstormed and discussed the similarities between their schools, some core ideals began to stand out. Although they attend three different schools, they are all preparing for the rest of their lives.
Barat said school was important because it was an incubator of thoughts.
"No matter which school you attend, it is somewhere where the people who gather together are the ones that believe in it and are part of not only a community but a family as well," she said.