Art project helps Wallingford students deal with sudden isolation 

reporter photo

WALLINGFORD — Neighborhoods are transforming into coral reefs teeming with fish fashioned out of household supplies or painted on windows by schoolchildren to encourage each other during the coronavirus crisis.

Art teachers are creating videos showing how to create fish out of readily available materials at home for the district’s #JustKeepSwimming project. The artwork is being compiled into a slideshow — over 500 images as of Thursday — and residents without students at home are encouraged to join.

“By posting the fish it kind of shows a sense of unity that we’re a big school of fish and even though we've been separated by the virus we’re still working together,” said School Superintendent Sal Menzo, who has seen the fish around town.

The effort was started by school social workers worried about students suddenly isolated at home, without their friends and teachers, while adjusting to remote learning.

“When we were forced to socially isolate so suddenly … we didn't have an opportunity to prepare students for such a drastic change,” said Chelsea Polletta, social worker at Mary G. Fritz Elementary School.

Polletta worked with Emily Banach, her counterpart at Rock Hill Elementary School, on the idea to depict the district as a school of fish that keeps swimming together through challenges. The “just keep swimming” line is a reference to the popular movie “Finding Nemo.”

Riding in a recent car parade held by teachers, Polletta saw fish signs and chalk drawings of fish in driveways.

Jack Gonzalez, 7, a first grader at Highland Elementary School, waved a sign “I ♥ Mrs Phillips” from the back of his family’s ATV, which had a few fish painted on it. A second sign attached to the bumper read “#JustKeepSwimming” and “We miss you so much.”

“I miss my teachers, my friends,” he said. While he gets to see classmates in group video calls, Gonzalez is ready to go back to the classroom.

His parents, Elliot and Wanda Gonzalez, said having so many families showing off their fish artwork makes social isolation a little bit easier.

Elliot Gonzalez added that it gives him “that little bit of hope that this will all be over soon.”

dleithyessian@record-journal.com203-317-2317Twitter: @leith_yessian


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