Students create their own world

The Baltimore Sun

Ask Edgewood Elementary School students how long it takes to create the Earth, and they may tell you a couple of months. That's because they did it.

Well, not the whole world, but a 30-square-foot mosaic mural of Earth.

"This map is not to scale!" fifth-graders Jack Sigler and Catelynn Murphy shouted in unison, pointing to the bottom of the mosaic where the same words are carved into yellow ceramic clay.

The students were eager to show off their work and bring awareness to current global issues as well.

"This shows everyone all that there is in the world, and that we need to protect it," fifth-grader Uriah Moeller said, while running his hand over the mosaic's smooth ceramic finish.

More than 100 third- and fourth-grade students created the mosaic last spring as an art class project. Local artist Amanda Pellerin, who works for Young Audiences/Arts for Learning, an arts education nonprofit organization, helped the children bring their project to fruition.

"What I do is try and talk to the staff and teachers to find out what the students are learning about, and try to connect the artwork to that," she said.

Founded in Maryland, Young Audiences is a national organization that seeks to bolster arts education in schools. Last spring, when the mural was created, was the first time the program came to Harford County schools.

Pellerin said the students began their project by researching the continents and the animals that inhabit them, and then designing the mural. They laid out the continents on three wood panels.

The next step was making the tiles with terracotta clay and painting them with a ceramic underglaze for a smooth surface and appearance. After Pellerin fired the tiles in a kiln, the students laid them out on the wood backer board and filled the gaps with mortar.

"Getting messy in all of the clay was the fun part," said fifth-grader Catelynn Murphy, standing on one of the school's wooden benches.

The students worked on the project in art classes last spring and Pellerin coordinated with teachers so the kids could help during other classes.

Uriah, who helped create Asia, said Pellerin encouraged creativity.

"She gave us a lot of room for our imagination," he said. "We could make it look however we wanted."

The mural was unveiled last week on back-to-school night. Students who participated in the project described the steps involved in creating a mosaic mural to parents, principal Lisa Sundquist and school district representatives.

The value of the project is that it builds enthusiasm for learning and shows the connection between the students' creative expression and learning, Sundquist said.

"This is something they made, and now they can actually touch," she said. "We wanted it to be where everyone could see it."

The mosaic hangs on the wall outside the school's cafeteria and plans for a spotlight to illuminate it are in the works.

"It's going to be a permanent landmark on the building now," said Pat Cruz, education director at Young Audiences. "To see it come together in one final product is something the kids will always remember."

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