FREEPORT — In this time of the COVID-19 crisis, many schools have taken the extra steps to stay connected to their students that go beyond academics to make sure the students still feel engaged in their schools.


At the Freeport School District, Jeannie Eiler, art teacher, introduced “The Getty Masterpiece Challenge,” where students and staff find a piece of art and recreate their version of it and send the photos to be displayed on a Facebook page. Empire Elementary School accepted the challenge, and this past week many of the photos have been uploaded to the Empire Elementary School Facebook page.


Pamela Powell, principal of Empire Elementary School, said she is pleased to see the participation for the challenge to offer something fun during the time away from the school during the pandemic.


“During the current pandemic, it is extremely helpful to stay connected to those who you care about,” Powell said. “Activities or creative challenges like ‘The Getty Masterpiece Challenge’ can help to keep you engaged or focused on other matters. This activity allowed staff and students to take the focus off of the pandemic and laugh and get back to enjoying the simple things in life, even if just for a few moments.”


She added, “Through our inner creativity, we were able to experience hope, comfort, peace, and laughter. Despite our current circumstances we found happiness — now that’s a lesson we hope lasts a lifetime.”


Nye Heitz, a second-grade student at Empire Elementary School, said he was excited to be part of the art project challenge. His mother, Tracy Heitz, said she watched her son embrace the project, looking at works of art to mimic.


“This was a fun thing to do, and I liked seeing me side-by-side with what I picked,” Nye said. “It’s like we are looking at each other.”


Eiler said she hopes other schools will do the same thing with their students. “Art and art-making is basically a conversation of ideas, the sharing of stories,” she said.


“As an art teacher, I am always looking for ways to bring the art of the past into our current worlds, as well as to encourage the creative work of those around me. This challenge has been a great way to get us all looking at the art of the masters and then to showcase the creativity of our Empire community. The kids and the teachers are blowing me away.”


Jane Lethlean; jlethlean1210@gmail.com; @DOGWMN2