• JoAnne Saldanha

The Magic of a True Story...and trash!

Week 3 of the Art Theme that I've been doing with my elementary students this term.


Last week my younger elementary students were inspired by the true story of Tyree Guyton as we read the book MAGIC TRASH : A STORY OF TYREE GUYTON AND HIS ART by J.H.H. Shapiro, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton.




When I came across this book I was fascinated by the story of Tyree Guyton and his Heidelberg Project. I loved how one individual decided to change things around him, things that did not benefit anyone in his community, using his talents to create and make a differnce. When I chose to do this book, I wasn’t too sure about the reaction the children would have to Tyree Guyton’s 'art'. Would they see it as art or as junk.

I was sure that they wouldn't have come across something similar before and so decided to broaden their idea of what may be considered art.


Tyree Guyton is an urban environmental artist and this book shows us how he transformed his decaying, crime-ridden neighbourhood into a installation art project...and interactive sculpture park, known as the Heidelberg Project...an internationally recognised community art project. The book highlights recycling/upcycling, community working together, the power of art and individual agency to effect change.


The illustrations are stunning and detailed but I found the text a bit stilted to read aloud, each spread ending in an awkward verse which I found myself having to explain to the children.




I supported the book by sharing a short video featuring Tyree Guyton and a quick look see around Heidelberg street. I was surprised that the majority of children appreciated Tyree’s hard work, creativity and never say die attitude. They commented on how persevering he was to rebuild his installations again and again, despite being knocked down by the city council. Most exclaimed how beautiful his work was and how they thought it most definitely was art. However, like in any group, there were a few voices who vehemently disagreed...thinking that it was just junk.


At the end of the book, I threw a challenge out to the children to make something from an item that was going to be thrown out in the trash....ideally something they could use rather than just art or craft. They had a week’s time to complete it.

The children loved this challenge and took it on with great gusto, many created items that they have started using at home.


Here I share just a few.

Swipe left to see a few of their creations that were inspire by this book.

SEL Competencies and skills:

Self-Awareness: Self efficacy/growth mindset, Recognise strengths.

Self- Management : Self disciple and motivation/ Goal setting and organisational Skills/ Initiative and Agency

Relationship Skills: Communication/ Relationship building/ Social Engagement/ Conflict resolution and leadership/ Team work and problem solving

Responsible Decision Making: Problem solving/ Critical thinking/ Role in effecting change


I found this book on GetEpic.


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