After the Nashville flood I began posting stories of what the children saw floating down the river and taking photos of their art on my share site. The children's stories and drawings caught the eye of a local reporter from NPT who came out to Lockeland to learn more. You can read and hear the story by clicking the link above.
By Anne Marshall
The scope of Tennessee’s historic flooding is hard for adults to fully comprehend. This week many school children have taken class time to interpret what they’ve seen on TV and experienced first hand. WPLN’s Anne Marshall has this story from East Nashville’s Lockeland Elementary, where kids are using art to make sense of what’s happened.
TEACHER: “Think about the colors of the water, the colors of the sky..”
Eyes are glued to art teacher Camilla Spadafino as she assigns a project in art history- recent history.
Spadafino says she knew when kids got back to school this week, the flood would consume their thoughts
SPADAFINO: “Because when the teachers came back before the kids did that’s all we wanted to do was talk to each other about what had happened.”
(SOUND– marker across page)
So she had kids put marker to paper.
…to help get it out.
KAYLEE GREER: “I’m drawing the water.”
Eight-year-old Kaylee Greer and her 5-year-old sister Kassidy live right near the Cumberland River in Inglewood and lost almost everything. They weren’t there when it flooded, but Kassidy was scared for the two family members who were – PH, the cat, and Bradley, the dog.
KASSIDY GREER: “I was worried about my dog. I thought he was drowning so my uncle came over to our house and got my dog and cat out upstairs.”
Her older sister’s drawing shows their uncle in a kayak on top of the layers of brown waves swallowing their house
KAYLEE GREER: “And I drew how my refrigerator and all my clothes and my build a bears were all out on the muddy yucky river water.”
Kaylee and Kassidy’s mom, Casey Greer, says the artwork is a needed release. Her kids who are having a tough time coping. Her oldest feels embarrassed about losing nearly all of her belongings.
CASEY GREER: “I think they know I’m kind of like real scared myself so they don’t’ want to talk to me and tell me so I think being able to draw helps them to get their feelings about everything out…yeah, she’s furiously drawing.”
Casey looks over at her oldest Kaylee, who’s focused on perfecting her picture. Most of the kids at Lockeland didn’t get flooded out. Many had no damage at all. And that leaves them processing the disaster through others, a tricky thing for young minds with wild imaginations.
GHEE: “Um, I used purple, orange, blue, yellow, green..”
Jake Ghee, a second grader, is pointing to his picture of a bright Japanese koi fish a fisherman in soaked Shelby Park. He wasn’t there but his brother got a text message about it.
GHEE: “I know its true….I think.”
Spadafino says she’s heard all sorts of tall tales. The kids’ favorite? The escaped piranha from Opry Mills Mall. She hasn’t told them what’s true and what’s not, but has tried to turn this into a lesson on curiosity and the importance of asking questions.
SPADAFINO: “If they hear something that doesn’t sound like it could be true to maybe explore and figure that out.”
“Well this is the sky and there’s lightning.”
Kindergartner James Moffett’s deep purple sky is part of a story he told about one man bathing in a bathtub floating down the Cumberland River. And another perched on a refrigerator.
MOFFETT: “that’s funny kind of too…”
Spadafino says for five-year-olds it was funny.
SPADAFINO: “They fell into hysterical peels of laughter when he said that and I felt that it was really healing like it gave them a chance to laugh about it, you know.”
But out of the outrageous story about the man on a refrigerator came real questions. Kindergartner Kassidy Greer’s fridge did float away and her classmates asked, “Was it hers?”
SPADAFINO: “And she said in her sweet Kindergarten voice. This really touches me. She said, ‘Oh no my refrigerator was black and it had photos all over it,’ and it just sort of broke my heart.”
Those photos may be gone, but the Greer sisters have two new hand drawn pictures. In big blue letters big sister Kaylee has written on hers, Nashville 2010. She wants to save it for her kids and grandkids.
KAYLEE GREER: “I’ll be able to tell them a story of how my house got flooded when I was like probably their age and how it really ruined part of my life.”
For Nashville Public Radio, I’m Anne Marshall.