Students go with the flow

River mosaic has children fishing for their artistic side

Posted: Wednesday, March 01, 2006


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  A ceramic turtle will be part of the mural created by students. Photos by Will Morrow

Artist Ann Wilson, left, helps second-grader Cole Crandall find the location of a piece of the mural created by students at Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science and Sears Elementary School. The theme of the ceramic mural is "A River Runs Through It."

Photos by Will Morrow

A river runs through the Sears Elementary School library.

Or more specifically, a three-panel mosaic mural, created by students at Sears and Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science following the theme “A River Runs Through It,” is carefully, piece by piece, being assembled in the school’s library.

“All I did was give them the material,” said Ann C. Wilson, a local artist in residence at the school who is guiding the students along their creative journey. “I did have posters from the Kenai River Center, things like that, but kids are just naturally creative. They have great imaginations. If you give them the opportunity to do it, they come up with beautiful things.”

Indeed, the students have produced a rainbow of colorful sea and river creatures and plants, and even the rocks adorning the mural’s riverbed are works of art in and of themselves.

The pieces of the mural are made from clay. Sears and Kaleidoscope, a charter school that shares space at Sears, house kindergarten through third-grade classes. Wilson had third-graders making fish, second-graders making rocks, first-graders making rocks and water tiles, and kindergartners working on textured tiles that make up the mural’s borders.

“And a couple parents and teachers, and a grandparent even came in and helped,” Wilson said.


A ceramic turtle will be part of the mural created by students.

Photos by Will Morrow

Wilson’s background in ceramic art includes a master’s degree in ceramics from the University of Guam. She’s been teaching in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District for eight years and is on a leave of absence from Soldotna High School this year.

Wilson said her neighbor, Kaleidoscope principal Jacquie Steckel, asked her if she was able to take on the project, and Wilson said yes.

The Parent Teacher Association at the school provided support for the project, and Wilson said school librarian Laurie Cowgill also has provided a great deal of support.

Wilson said this was the third school mural she’s been involved with — she supervised a student project at Soldotna High School, and also helped create a mural at Kenai Middle School. Coincidentally, all three murals have underwater themes.

Wilson said the river theme was something the school came up with.

“I love the ocean and river, so it’s worked out really well,” Wilson said.

After students created the fish, rocks, plants and water tiles that make up the mural, Wilson was able to use the Potters Guild kiln facilities at the Kenai Fine Arts Center to fire the pieces.

Wilson said adult helpers then clear-glazed the pieces for refiring. Students saw their completed tiles last week — the anticipation was evident as students in the hallway outside the library peered through the windows while others helped assemble to completed tiles on the other side of the glass.

Wilson said students loved working with the wet clay and were fascinated by the changes from the start to the finish of the process.

“To see it from beginning to end was pretty neat because it changed quite a bit, and they were thrilled,” Wilson said.

While the firing process has been completed, there still is quite a bit of work to do to complete the murals.

Last week, students were using pictures of the mural, taken before the tiles were removed to be fired, to figure out where each piece needed to be placed. Wilson will then have adults help epoxy the pieces in place, and when that’s had a chance to set, the three large panels will be grouted.

Finally, the pieces will be placed on the wall with help from the borough.

“Then we’ll have an open house and a celebration,” Wilson said.

Not only does the mural’s theme tie in to some of the environmental topics students cover, the creative process also helps students learn to think in different ways, something Wilson firmly believes.

“I think it’s a shame that arts are cut most frequently. They’re always one of the first things to go, but they’re invaluable,” she said.

Because every student participated in the mural’s creation, Wilson said, the project has significance to the entire school.

“Whenever I’ve done this before, it’s amazing, they’ll remember it forever,” Wilson said. “They’ll always point out their fish or their rock or their water.”

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