Ridgefield school staff get 'The Simpsons' treatment

RIDGEFIELD — Since the last year has been tough for just about everybody, East Ridge Middle School art teacher Hillary Lewis had her eighth grade students participate in a unique and fun activity: creating an ERMS-based episode of “The Simpsons.”

Lewis had done a similar project years ago but she was inspired to do it again for another reason.

“Given the stress of the past year and the unusual circumstances present in school, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to let loose and have fun while learning at the same time,” she said.

“The Simpsons” ERMS Episode project was based on an artist study of the American cartoonist Matt Groening. Lewis asked her eighth grade students to list five staff members they would be interested in drawing a portrait of using Groening’s Simpsons style. Once their lists was complete, she assigned each student a staff member. Lewis adapted the project and material to be accessible to all students whether they were present in class or remotely at home.

Before the project began, Lewis notified the entire staff to let them know that the students would be cartooning the staff for inspiration. Almost all of her colleagues agreed to participate.

“As teachers, we have pretty thick skins and I'm lucky to work with people who have a really good sense of humor,” she said.

A newsletter about the project listed some of the pieces, “Principal Raneri’s scooter for her bum leg, Mr. Grace’s signature vest, Mr. Settani’s ‘Stress Free Zone.’”

The end result was fantastic, giving the school a morale boost after a difficult year.

“It was so much fun to hear people laughing and see them enjoying the exhibit,” Lewis said. “I am so incredibly proud of the hard work my students put into this project and their bravery in stepping out of their comfort zones.”

Lewis said cartooning is not an easy skill to master and walking the fine line of capturing the essence of a teacher her students see everyday is hard too, but the students showed out.

East Ridge Middle School principal Patricia Raneri said the project was the creative brain child of Lewis, who was able to successfully complete the project with their hybrid instructional model.

“When the final results were posted you could hear laughter throughout the building,” Raneri said. “The staff loved it. We were very impressed with the students’ attention to detail and their interpretations.

“They were very accurate,” Raneri added with a laugh.