Teacher creates silhouettes to brighten students’ days

November 3, 2023

Teacher creates silhouettes to brighten students’ days

Wildcat News is a presentation of Walkerville Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press.

WALKERVILLE — When you stroll down the halls of Walkerville Elementary School, you will notice some unique silhouette artwork adorning the walls.

The silhouettes are the handiwork of elementary teacher David Van Horn who has created 78 shadows over a five-year period.

“It’s a really simple process,” said Van Horn. The children sit down on a chair by the wall, and then he uses an overhead projector to create the shadow. He then free hands with a marker to create an outline. Then, he paints inside the outline to create the image. For images that are higher up on the wall, Van Horn uses poster board. “We cast a shadow with the poster board, and then from the poster board, I cut it all out.”

The teacher uses the shadows to brighten students’ days. There was a child with a birth defect who Van Horn wanted to help. When he created her silhouette, he said, “This is going to be your superpower, honey. We turned her into a supergirl.” 

Objects that could interfere with the flow of his designs are creatively incorporated. He used the fire extinguisher hanging on the wall as the superhero’s jet pack.

“They have to qualify,” he said of who is chosen to be featured on the wall. Good behavior gets your shadow on the wall. Students who are not behaving need to change their behavior to get their shadow drawn.

After a few years, it’s fun for the students to compare their size in the shadows to how tall they are now. “These kids are grown up, and they come to me and say, ‘Mr. Van Horn, can you take me to my shadow?’”

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