When Jonathan Juravich, an art teacher at Liberty Tree Elementary in Powell, was named the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year, he said the award began “sparking some new things” for him. Now, he hopes one of those things will, in turn, create a spark in the lives of his students.
Through his “Drawing with Mr. J” online series, aired on WOSU’s website and Youtube pages, students engage in a short, themed drawing challenge that is meant to promote social and emotional skills.
“Not only do we have these very short, three-minute videos, but the goal is that they are a conversation starter,” Juravich said of his series.
For instance, the first video in the series, titled “Fruit Dance Party,” involves drawing dancing fruit while also discussing the importance of sharing emotions. The second video of the series, “A Plant with a Face,” explores emotions like grumpiness and shares personal strategies for processing that feeling.
The third video in the series was released Tuesday. It involves drawing a donut playing a sport while discussing how to handle disappointment.
Juravich said the idea for the series began when a camera crew from WOSU came to Liberty Tree after Juravich was named the winner of the 2018 award. While filming at the school, the crew became enamored with Juravich’s “quick draw challenge.”
“Outside of my classroom is a goofy prompt, and kids come in and they have two minutes to draw whatever is posted,” Juravich said of his drawing challenge with students at Liberty Tree. “Everybody does it, from kindergarten students to fifth grade students, and we hang up their drawings, which are the size of a Post-it note.”
A year ago, while doing work for the Ohio Department of Education, Juravich said he was prompted to reach out to WOSU about pairing up for a project relating to his quick draw challenge.
“Now what you have is ‘Drawing with Mr. J,’” Juravich said. “All of these little pieces came together in a really cool way. At the root of it, the idea is how can we not only have fun with kids and give them these goofy prompts but also to have these meaningful discussions about awareness of feelings and emotions.”
Juravich said he and the producers are “very cognizant” of the need to align the videos with the state’s social and emotional learning standards. Each video is linked to a “companion guide,” which contains things such as suggestions on picture books and discussion questions relating to the theme of the video. The companion guide is meant to help teachers and parents continue the conversation at home.
At the onset of the series, Juravich said the idea was so abstract that very few people within his own school building knew about it. Eventually, however, he said other teachers in the building began to use the videos as a way to engage their students, and other educators around the country have begun to follow suit as well.
“What I really enjoy about it is that it’s not just for the art teacher to use,” Juravich said. “It can be used in any classroom environment or at home.”
While Juarvich has excelled at teaching elementary kids now for 15 years, his initial plan as a teacher was never to teach elementary kids, he said. Instead, Juravich said most of his undergrad schooling centered around high school students, and he thought he was destined to teach at that level. His first teaching job would prove otherwise, however.
“I was hired to teach elementary that first year, and I think it was during the first week where I told myself, ‘Oh, this is where I belong. These are my people,’” Juravich said.
Asked what he enjoys most about doing the series, Juravich said, “It’s hopefully sparking conversations that can be really fun and silly but also really meaningful. Also, being able to give teachers and parents a simple resource that they can use to have conversations with their kids about the things they are feeling.”
He added, “Now is a really important time for us to be thoughtful about the words we are using and the ways that we are processing emotions … Being able to play a part in starting those conversations is really exciting to me.”
A total of eight episodes are scheduled to be released initially, Juravich said, with the goal of one episode releasing per month. He said the goal now is to speed up the release schedule, given the need for online content while schools remain closed.
To watch the videos, visit www.wosu.org/mrj.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.