Middle Division art teacher Sally Russell ’83 designed “The Silent Soldier Project” as a way for students in Grades 5 to 8 to discover the hidden complexities of commonplace objects that are hidden in plain sight. 

She explains, “I have been fascinated with fire hydrants for years. I have always admired their interesting shapes and colors. They are like little sculptures just sitting there…I began referring to them as ‘silent soldiers,’ quietly waiting to be heroes. They are ubiquitous, yet go unnoticed. They continue to be dutiful. In light of all the California fires this past summer, I decided to bring the theme into the classroom. We were learning about shape and value and I thought the fire hydrant would be the perfect form to translate the techniques students were learning, in addition to bringing attention to an everyday object that we take for granted.”

To teach students how hydrants work, Ms. Russell enlisted Contra Costa Fire Protection District Captain Andy Bozzo ’89—father of Luca ’21 and Sophia ’23 and husband of Molly Bozzo, head of the lower and middle division. According to Ms. Russell, Captain Bozzo went above and beyond in creating a video to explain how many parts of the fire truck, station, and hydrant operate—as well as how they are structured. Once students understood the inner workings of the hydrant, they learned from her how to draw its shape and structure.
Captain Bozzo explained, “The idea for this project was Ms. Russell’s brainchild, and one of the reasons I jumped at it was because she communicated such an exciting vision. I knew she would coax the best work out of the kids that was expressive and vibrant for such an important and unsung part of our culture.”  

In the end, the Silent Soldier project was an exciting, immersive learning experience that resulted in a collection of impressive art pieces, showing that students had both an intellectual understanding of fire hydrants—and the creative talent to reproduce them on the page. This project was especially impressive in that remote instruction did not hinder any of the participants’ contributions or the talent and imagination students were able to harness in order to create their final products. Captain Bozzo sums the experience up saying, “The art that resulted is fantastic!  It was an honor to be a part of it.”

To watch Ms. Sally Russell’s introduction of the project, click here. Check out the students’ hydrant drawings, here.

To watch the video Captain Bozzo created for students, click here.