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ICJA geometry and art students last week completed an incredible mosaic to display permanently in the math and science commons area. The project is the first of its kind for the school, reflecting the school’s educational push to work more collaboratively between subjects and incorporate project based learning (PBL) into the curriculum. Sophomores in Mrs. Pederson’s, Mr. Keller’s and Ms. Kelly’s classes worked collaboratively throughout the first semester with Chicago mosaic artist Chris Zonta to create the school’s first art work to be hung at the new campus.

“Origins” is an 8-ft. diameter mosaic mural medallion and represents in visual form the major sciences and a variety of math concepts, while also highlighting the Jewish roots and contemporary approach of this Modern Orthodox Jewish high school. Simply put, it’s Torah u’Maddah represented in art. The colorful mosaic is made of approximately 4000 ceramic, glass, porcelain and handmade tiles. Students learned tile laying techniques, design elements for mosaic and how to use tile nippers. The basic mural design was created by the artist and evolved over time as both students and teachers added their ideas. During the project, students enjoyed immersing themselves in creating their own individual 8 x 8-sq.-in. mosaic pieces.

ICJA parents of alumni, Barbara Geller, Debbi Geller and Phyllis Muller, were so excited about the project that they actively participated with the students throughout the semester. Often, Barb and Debbie stayed with Chris Zonta to work the whole afternoon at ICJA on Tuesdays.

ICJA faculty were excited to take the opportunity to glue a piece of tile in the mural as well.

The project was spearheaded by Mrs. Pederson, who thought creating a mosaic project would help her students understand how concepts and practices in art and math are integrated in the real world. It was designed to include art as part of ICJA’s push to integrate STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) into our curriculum and is one of many STEM courses and opportunities at ICJA. Chris Zonta and Mrs. Kelly worked together to teach students how to develop and draw an intricate symmetrical design using math formulas while considering specific mosaic art elements.

Chris Zonta has facilitated large scale mosaic projects through her Mural Residency Program to 25 schools in Northern Illinois area since 2004.

“Showing students how the mandala was mathematically constructed and drawn on our substrate was the perfect way to illuminate how math is used in the creation of mosaic art,” says Zonta. “I am thrilled to see these 32 students and some dedicated adult volunteers invest themselves in this very special project. The students gained a solid understanding of the art of mosaic. The mural is colorful, bold and a great reminder of how important math and science are in our world today. I am happy to have worked with all the enthusiastic Ida Crown students and staff,” remarked Zonta.

The mosaic project began in September and will be installed some time in February.  The math/science mosaic mural will be a beautiful, bold, artistic and energizing enhancement to Ida Crown Jewish Academy. An unveiling event is planned for February 19, in time for the ICJA Scholarship Dinner.

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