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Community Creativity

Murals help students learn about art and nature at four elementary schools

Students at elementary schools around the valley have been working hard this spring to make their schools more colorful. At Parkdale, Pine Grove and May Street schools, this spring has seen students turning drab walls into brightly painted murals that tell stories about each school and their community.

At Parkdale Elementary, fourth- and fifth-graders painted two long walls on the school’s front side with murals about life in the Upper Valley community. Fourth-graders painted a chronological scene depicting historic Parkdale, with an old train engine and car and newly planted orchards, and modern Parkdale with the Mt. Hood Railroad train engine and mature orchards.

“The theme our principal wanted was community,” said fourth-grade teacher Kim Bauer. Artist-in-Residence Janet Essley brainstormed with students in the classroom about what “community” means in Parkdale, including what kinds of work people do and what they do for fun.

“Based on what the kids brainstormed, this is the compilation they came up with,” Bauer said. Each student worked on a specific section of the mural as Essley helped them draw figures to scale and arrange scenes.

Fourth-grader Amber Edwards painted a scene with black and gold bees buzzing around a field.

“My dad is a beekeeper,” she explained. Eric McNerney, also a fourth-grader, worked carefully on a segment of modern Parkdale.

“I like how it’s about the community,” he said. “It’s like a time line.” Bauer was understandably proud of her students.

“It’s a real sense of accomplishment,” she said. “And it certainly brightens up the school.”

At Pine Grove Elementary, students worked with Artist-in-Residence Shelley Hight over the past month to create a nature mural in the school’s entry hall. On the formerly blank walls above the stairwell wainscoting, a river now flows with fish jumping out of the tumbling water. In the main hallway around the office, pear and apple orchards bloom. The Pine Grove tile mosaics were done by students in every grade at the school.

At May Street Elementary, murals grace four corners of a hallway by the cafeteria, as well as a wall by the music room. The “four corners” mural, painted by third graders under the tutelage of Artist-in-Residence Essley, depicts nature scenes in the four seasons, with flora and fauna indigenous to Hood River. The other mural, painted by second-graders, is a whimsical scene showing wildlife ranging from eagles to penguins, as well as a similarly eclectic array of flora.

Westside Elementary fifth-graders worked with Hight in February to create a unique mural in tile mosaic. Located in the entry hall in the gym wing, the mosaic is a colorful depiction of trees, bees, butterflies and other flora and fauna.

Students wore goggles to break the tiles and meticulously placed the pieces in a design created by Hight. All the students seemed to have different ideas about what they enjoyed most about creating the mosaic.

“I liked breaking the tiles,” said fifth-grader Jose Cuevas. Fellow student Jackie Jones was more philosophical about it.

“I thought it was really cool,” she said. “We were actually doing something to help the school.”

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Editor’s note: Mid-Valley Elementary led the mural movement three years ago when Hight worked with students there to create a colorful hallway mosaic mural.

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