Sixth graders at Union Ridge Elementary School make their mark on the school before leaving for middle school in an end-of-year art project where all exiting students have the opportunity to help paint a permanent mural on one of the school’s exterior walls.
Alan Adams, Union Ridge’s art teacher, came up with the idea of having exiting sixth graders paint a lasting mural and started the project three years ago with each class creating a different mural since then. “We wanted to give our students an opportunity to create a legacy piece that they would leave behind,” said Adams. “In the past, students painted tiles for the interior hallways, but these full murals add a little more pizazz.”
Adams based this year’s theme, a surreal representation of a solar eclipse, on the works of Alma Thomas, an abstract painter and art educator who specialized in expressionism. Students helped paint the moon eclipsing the sun with concentric circles of color emanating from the center.
Before letting the students loose with paintbrushes, Adams carefully explains the care needed when painting with permanent paint unlike water colors or washable paints where messes are more easily cleaned up. After demonstrating how to paint, students form groups of three and fill in the mural.
Watching students develop their own intrinsic styles inspires Adams to develop innovative projects. “I enjoy hearing what students think and seeing how they express themselves,” he said. “Students will take project ideas in completely different directions, and watching these kids grow up from second grade year after year is a very cool and unique experience.”
The sixth graders raved about the mural project. “The mural is my favorite project because I like making a permanent part of the school,” said Rossaline Asquith. “The mural is my favorite project,” agreed Hunter Jackson, a classmate. “It’s outside where all the other students can see and it will be here forever.”
The students point to Adams as inspiring them to take more chances and to take their artwork seriously. “Mr. Adams is a really good teacher – he really understands students and helps us out,” said Asquith. Alli Hook, a classmate, agreed, “Mr. Adams takes things seriously and makes sure students take on responsibility.”
Visitors can see the three sixth grade murals on the eastern-facing wall of Union Ridge Elementary School near the playground.
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