By NEIL ZAWICKI
A collaboration between Parent Teacher Association members, educators, and the Milton Artists Guild brought new art to life last week at Milton Elementary School.
The mural, called “Five Heroes,” presents a quintet of inspirational figures from history. St Albans artist Jon Young designed the mural with the same paint-by-numbers method he used on the dugouts at Bombardier Park. The final execution of the mural was done by the schools 125 fifth graders.
Those same kids also selected through a vote the featured heroes, after completing a research writing assignment, in which they learned about influential leaders. Educators Logan Tracy, Kesia Cope, Gabby Roberts, Malory Brown, and Audrey Osman, taught the collective writing lesson to their fifth graders. Osman said the kids selected from 20 leaders, wrote about them, and then students from each class voted on their favorite.
They landed on theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, Nobel Prize recipient and Taliban terrorist attack survivor Malala Yousafzai, aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, and former U.S. President Barack Obama.
On Thursday afternoon at least 12 kids worked on the mural, which Young had blocked out the week before. The hallway is not large, so the 125 kids have to come in batches.
They grabbed brushes, dipped them in cups of paint, and went to work building the values on the faces of each hero.
Eleven-year-old Landon Francis-Goucher said working with the paint was a nice experience. “It’s calming,” he said, “and when everything is done people will be able to enjoy what we made.”
Francis-Goucher’s class voted for Earhart, and so did he.
PTA member Julie Thommes, watching the kids paint, said she has always had an interest in bringing more art to the school.
The impetus for the project came when PTA member Danielle Berry over the summer saw a Facebook video of another school creating a mural.“I just thought, ‘gosh, we need to do something like that,” she said.
When she pitched it to the school board and to the teachers, she said everyone loved the idea, but were unsure about where to put it and, most importantly, how to fit it into the curriculum.
“So it funneled down to the idea of making it a fifth grade legacy gift for the school,” she explained. As luck would have it, the heroes writing project came up, and the teachers thought that would be a great way to blend the two concepts.
“It worked out great,” said Berry. Still, she and Thommes both say getting to yes was not a sure thing, and for a minute it seemed like it wouldn’t happen.
“It took a while to get traction,” said Thommes. “For a while we thought it wouldn’t happen, but then we got an email around Christmas from the school asking when we could do it. We said now.”
“Once they said they wanted it to be the fifth grade legacy project and that we could get going, I was like, ‘Let’s Go!’” said Berry. “I had a lot of support, but I was so focused it was like I had tunnel vision.”
The plan moving forward is that subsequent fifth grade classes will be able to add to the mural over the years. This excites Berry’s daughter, Natalia Towsley, a fourth grader at the school. “She can’t wait to paint on it next year,” said Berry.
The mural cost $700, and that money came from a grant through the PTA.