Portland School Notebook: Oct. 16

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Ceramic art program heats up at Cheverus

The Cheverus High School art department is firing up a new kiln and adding a unique element to its art essentials class. Students will now explore their creativity through hands-on experience, learn new techniques and expand their artistic viewpoint. Cheverus art teacher Jennifer Potthoff said ceramics will continue the expansion of the Cheverus visual arts program by providing more opportunities for 3-D creative expression and academic artistic diversity. Sculpting with claydevelops sensory skills, motor skills, self-esteem, self-expression, problem solving skills, discipline and pride. Studio ceramics will also reinforce the art history study of ceramics.

“It is exciting to see students creating art, but seeing students push themselves and enjoy the process, is what I really enjoy as a teacher,” said Potthoff.  The school’s Open Art Studio program, new in 2012-2013, continues on Thursdays after school in 2013-2014. Students gather in the art room to pursue their own creative paths in a variety of different mediums. This workshop is open to all students and no prior art training is required. New this year, the Art Department is introducing the Art for Others Club. The club, open to all students who wish to meld art and community service, will collaborate with community partners to create murals or paintings to spaces which children and adults are in crisis or have lost hope. The club’s co-leaders are Marie Collins, Julia Haskell and Grace Oryem, all of Portland.

High school and fire department create training course

Portland high school students don firefighter gear and search a smoky building for “victims” as part of a new firefighting course offered in partnership with the Portland Fire Department. Portland Fire Department Captain Philip McGouldrick is working with Portland High School teacher Rocco Frenzilli on the course, which debuted Oct. 12. The full-year course, based on industry standards, will help students prepare for a career in firefighting and public safety service.

“We’re excited to work with the school department and give these students an exposure to firefighting as a career with the hope that some will choose it as a career path,” Portland Fire Chief Jerome LaMoria said. The class has 11 sophomores, juniors and seniors from Portland and Deering high schools and is part of the Pathways to Success initiative that is remodeling the Portland Public Schools for the needs and demands of 21st century life. Students at all of the city’s public high schools are exploring potential careers through their academic classes, job shadowing, internships and community partnerships.

USM student named best new writer

University of Southern Maine graduate student Mur Lafferty has been awarded the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Lafferty, of Durham, N.C., who is studying popular fiction, was presented last month in San Antonio during the 2013 Hugo Awards to the best new professional science-fiction or fantasy writer of 2011 or 2012. The award is sponsored by Dell Magazines, publisher of Analog Science Fiction & Fact magazine, and is  named after an influential science fiction writer and editor. It was the second nomination for Lafferty, who was selected this year out of more than 476 nominees.

“The Campbell is an award where it truly is an honor to be nominated, because it’s amazing to be in a group of five considered the most promising new writers to the field,” Lafferty said. “I’m honored and humbled and thrilled and honestly a little gun-shy. It’s intimidating thinking that people are watching me now, waiting to see if I produce Campbell-worthy work.” Lafferty is an author, podcaster and editor, whose first professionally published book, “The Shambling Guide to New York City,” is now in bookstores. Lafferty’s qualifying work for the award was a story, “1963: The Argument Against Louis Pasteur” published in the book, “The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities,” published by Harper Voyager in 2011. James Patrick Kelly, Stonecoast faculty member and Lafferty’s mentor, was present when she won the award.

“It was one of the thrills of my career to be in the auditorium when Mur Lafferty won,” Kelly said, adding she has discovered that secret that all writers must learn: It is not what you write about, but how much of yourself you are willing to put into the work.