MUSCATINE, Iowa–In all subject areas, teachers strive to give their students real world experiences. For 15 years, one of art teacher Mary Alice Sessler’s favorite ways to get students’ work into the community came through the Muscatine Lions Club’s annual peace poster contest. “I always chose to do contests in which the students could discover knowledge about a particular subject area and also help the community in some way,” stated Sessler. “I feel that the Lions Club’s peace poster contest is a great way for students to express (through their art) their perspectives on peace in their own lives, in their community, and in the world.”
Though Sessler retired from her most recent art teaching job at Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, she still wanted to help children express themselves through this contest. After Muscatine Lions Club Member Connie Fuller encouraged children ages 11 and up in the Salvation Army of Muscatine County’s after school program to enter the contest, Sessler assisted them with each step of the process by, “sharing posters of previous winners, brainstorming ideas for this year’s theme, giving the students reference materials to help with their rough drafts, and giving lots of encouragement!”
Mary Darnell, youth ministry specialist for the Salvation Army of Muscatine County, shared that four students from the afterschool program entered. Of these four, two ended up placing in the competition. Cadence Petersen, a sixth grader at Franklin Elementary School, earned second place, and Sopheara Gonzales, also in sixth grade at Franklin, took third.
Both students enjoyed the experience and took pride in placing. “I loved the experience because I love to draw and I wanted to be in the contest,” shared Cadence.
“I felt happy because I have the opportunity to share my art on peace in drawing,” said Sopheara.
Watching the students work on their masterpieces and then share them with the wider community, Darnell valued having this new creative outlet for her after school students explaining, “it gives them the opportunity to share how they see art.”
Though Sessler may have retired from her art teaching at Saints Mary and Mathias, her former students’ enthusiasm for the peace poster contest continues. This year’s first place winner, Eva Kurriger, a fifth grader at the school, earned first place.
Though winners could not meet for a celebration honoring their achievements, as they have in the past, the Lions Club did provide each winner with a certificate. Winners will have the opportunity to have their work progress to regional and possibly state level poster contests.