Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School agriculture and art students recently worked together using preserved moss and more traditional artwork featuring geometric shapes, elements of design and personal experiences to create a moss art wall.

“The hope is this collaborative project will be a permanent installation here at Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School that celebrates the individual creativity of our students while showing what happens when individuals work together towards a common goal,” Herkimer agriculture teacher Talia Baker said.

Baker and Herkimer art teacher Heather McCutcheon organized the cross-curricular project with their students. The end result was installed on Thursday, May 9, and is on display in the second floor lobby of the Jr./Sr. High School on the wall above the phone-charging station.

The project is a mixture of agriculture and art both in practice and visually, McCutcheon said.

“That’s what we were going for – both the collaboration between students and also in the design elements themselves,” McCutcheon said.

Baker and McCutcheon first came up with this idea in 2020 and started working toward it but had to stop when COVID-19 closed schools to in-person learning. They’ve since worked on other projects and decided that now was the right time to bring this idea back.

“So it’s nice to see,” McCutcheon said. “This has been a spot we have talked for years about creating a collaborative piece for, and it is finally created and looks great.”

McCutcheon’s students in studio art, social-emotional artistic learning and Art Club crafted unique designs for the project. They were tasked with creating an image that holds personal significance, reflecting their hobbies and passions. The Glowforge, a laser engraving machine, cut and engraved the designs, which were then enhanced with mixed media.

Students chose topics such as sports, animals, a family barn, comic book characters and more to focus their hexagon designs on. They were able to custom the engravings however they wanted – such as with colored pencils or paint.

Baker’s landscape design students learned about biophilic design, which is when designers try to increase connectivity between people and the natural environment by bringing in nature to different spaces. Adding nature to the work space has been shown to improve mood and increase productivity, Baker said.

“When people are in contact with nature in an indoor spot, it makes them feel better,” Baker said.

Using wood frames and different types of preserved moss, students created pieces that reminded them of landscapes from a bird’s eye view similar to how they sketch landscape plans during other parts of the class.

“This was a fun way to see what it would look like,” Baker said. “We thought using the moss would be a cool way to do it – taking different textures and colors and incorporating that into a design.”

Herkimer ninth graders Hailey Gerhardt, Ace Boyd and Connor McCutcheon installed the display on Thursday, May 9, with assistance from their teachers. All three students are in studio art, and Hailey also is in landscape design, so she was able to participate in both parts of the project.

“It was a lot of fun to design it and then make it in both classes,” Hailey said. “I think it’s a really good idea to have something here that we made and can be here for good. Especially having it here at the phone-charging station, people hang out here after school before sports and plays, so I think they’re going to enjoy it.”

For art class, Hailey selected a design based on things she enjoys.

“I picked a sunset at the beach because I love sunsets and the ocean, so I figured I would combine them,” she said.

Making a design with moss in landscape design was a new experience.

“It was a little challenging at first and then became more like coloring – it was relaxing and fun,” Hailey said. “I like that we did the moss together with the art. I think with some of the moss, it looks like art. It brings out both of them.”

Ace enjoyed selecting multiple interests to include in his art design and thinks “it’s cool” that the display will be in the high school for a long time.

“It looks good,” Ace said.

Connor said the parts of the project he enjoyed the most were watching the Glowforge make the engraving of his design and seeing the whole project come together on the wall. He likes that the display will be displayed ongoing and thinks it should be added to by future agriculture and art students.

“I think eventually it will be up to the ceiling,” Connor said.