For students, ringing bells all mean liberty

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At National Liberty Museum, Dy'mon Pendelton (left), 11, and Michael Maguire, 12, of Kenderton School, with their bell. Another decorated Liberty Bell, from Beeber Middle School, is at top.

The fourth floor of the National Liberty Museum was filled with the sounds of ringing cell phones and beeping text messages Wednesday.

"Freedom comes with a choice," one message said.

The prepaid phones were not owned by anybody there at the museum but instead linked to a structure called B.O.B., also known as Birth of a Bell, one of five Liberty Bell recreations by local elementary school students.

The sounds told the story: "When someone calls and the phone rings, that symbolizes the bell ringing to send a message," said Brianna Chandeler-Waters, 12, a seventh grader at Sharswood Elementary School at 2300 S. Second St.

The students' hope is that the public will call or text the number on display and tell them what liberty means to them.

B.O.B. was one of the Liberty Bells created by students from five Philadelphia schools who participated over the last month in "Let Art Freedom Ring," a program aimed at teaching the students about democracy and civil liberties.

"I thought it would be a bunch of stuff piled on a bell," said Imani Bowman, 13, a seventh grader at Sharswood who also worked on B.O.B. "At the end, I really liked it."

The program was sponsored by Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership in conjunction with the National Liberty Museum.

"The students wanted to be heard, respected, and get more challenging work," said Samuel Reed, a literacy and social studies teacher at Beeber Middle School in West Philadelphia. The students in his class created their own Student Bill of Rights and incorporated it into their Liberty Bell named "Life . . . and the Pursuit of Happiness."

"We worked really hard on the bell," said Evan Baylor, 12, a sixth grader at Beeber. Their six-foot-tall bell featured clay sculptures of people supporting one another, with the figure on top holding the bell.

"They are the most outstanding pieces of art created in four weeks that I have ever seen," said Pearl Schaffer, chief executive officer of the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership.

"We were concerned that the curriculum wouldn't have an effect on the final project. But they absolutely have curriculum embedded in the artwork," Schaffer said.

The five Liberty Bells will be on display at the National Constitution Center until July 7, when two bells will be transferred back to the Liberty Museum, where visitors can vote for their favorite. Votes can also be cast at the Constitution Center and by calling phone numbers that are available at the sites.

The bells will also take to the road for displays in New York City and Boston. To follow the sculptures as they travel, visit www.letartfreedomring.org.

 


Contact staff writer Nicole Lockley at 215-854-5626 or nlockley@phillynews.com.