Transition Plus students create mosaics, express love of school

Teamwork is essential in creating a pair of mosaic murals designed and assembled by students in Anoka-Hennepin School District’s Transition Plus program. Here, Andrew B., Joey L. and Dan B. meticulously place glass beads on mesh covering students’ sketch of their original design. Later, students will heat the mesh, fusing the pieces to the surface before filling open spaces with caulk. Photo by Sue Austreng

Two one-of-a-kind mosaics will soon be on display in two Anoka-Hennepin School District buildings. Those original pieces of public art are giant expressions of love designed and created by students in the district’s Transition Plus program.

For the past 10 weeks or so, more than four dozen students have identified what they love about Transition Plus, then imagined ways to communicate that love.

With the help of artist in residence Anne Krocak, students dreamed up the imagery to use to express those elements, then meticulously fixed translucent beads, metal pieces, glass tiles and clay figures on mesh canvases.

“There’s nothing special about this. What makes it special is what we’re doing with it,” Transition Plus student Maggie H. said as she carefully placed glass pieces on the canvas.

Teacher Terri Breems talked about lessons learned during the process.

“We started in March and these students have not only learned how to create a mosaic and all the artistry that goes in to it, they’ve also learned different job skills, how to do something for the community, how to work together, have their voice heard,” Breems said.

“This has helped them cope with stress and anxiety, they’ve explored leisure time activities and they’ve been exposed to different opportunities within art and art therapies. These students are engaged and they’re excited about it and they’ve learned so much,” she said.

Scenes describing favorite parts of school include images depicting self-awareness, physical fitness, cooking, budgeting, mental health awareness and more.

Krocak worked closely with Breems and other Transition Plus teachers to provide students with an enriched experience that supports the school’s curriculum.

And students have eagerly taken ownership of the mural project.

“We let them be the guide and they’ve been very engaged. This is a big undertaking for our program and our students are very excited about being public artists,” Breems said.

A public unveiling of the two mosaics will take place in the coming weeks.

What is Transition Plus?

The Transition Plus program is a secondary special education program designed for students with disabilities who are between the ages of 18 and 21 and have current transition needs. (Transition is defined as the time when a student moves from school to adult life.)

Anoka-Hennepin’s Transition Plus program offers functional and vocational curriculum with instructional focus on the acquisition of skills necessary for independence within the community.

The five areas of instruction include jobs and job training, community participation, home living, recreation and leisure and post-secondary learning. Transition Plus also emphasizes general transition skills, self-advocacy, social skills and communication.

VSA Minnesota is the state organization on arts and disability. Transition Plus was able to host Krocak through VSA Minnesota’s artists-in-residence grant program, which is made possible in part by the Minnesota State Arts Board.

To learn more about Transition Plus in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, visit and search “Transition Plus.”

Editor’s note: Students are identified by first name and last initial as is Transition Plus program policy.

Sue Austreng is at

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