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April 20, 2004

Forging art, friendships

From:, KY - Apr 20, 2004

Deaf, hearing students practice Native American pottery making

By Greg Kocher

DANVILLE - By firing pottery the way Native Americans did, hearing and deaf students here are learning about each other.

"It's a great opportunity for students to work together and communicate," said Barbie Harris, an art education teacher at the 181-year-old Kentucky School for the Deaf. "They try to teach each other."

Since early April, some 60 students from Boyle County High School and 15 KSD students have dug soil, sifted it for clay and then fashioned the clay to make earthenware, human or animal figurines, and artwork.

Yesterday they placed the dried pieces -- including a representation of the American Sign Language hand sign for "I love you" -- into pit fires on the KSD campus. They hope to unearth their finished work today after it has baked underground all night.

Roderick Hodge, 18, a Kentucky School for the Deaf student who wants to be a writer, said the experience has been valuable.

"I learned how to be more creative, and I got to meet new students outside of KSD," said Hodge. "That was the best part, to be able to bond with other students."

This is not the first time that hearing and deaf students have combined their learning of science and the humanities. Last year, they learned dance moves to explain simple biology, such as how cells divide, and then performed the dances at Centre College.

Such projects are funded with grants from VSA Arts of Kentucky, a non-profit organization that provides opportunities in the arts for people with disabilities, and the KSD Charitable Foundation. The money pays for supplies and Washington County artist Don Boklage's time for instruction.

The casual observer can't always discern deaf students from their hearing counterparts. Some Boyle County High students have either taken a class in American Sign Language -- which is offered to hearing students as a foreign language -- or they have picked up enough of the deaf alphabet to "finger spell."

Boyle County High student Lee Hoagland, 18, learned sign language through scouting and through exposure to deaf soccer buddies. Hoagland easily signed and joked yesterday with deaf students.

"If you use it on a regular basis, it's really easy to pick up," Hoagland said. "I think being together and interacting broadens your horizons."

Reach Greg Kocher in the Nicholasville bureau at (859) 885-5775 or

© 2004 Lexington Herald-Leader and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.