Art teacher Tina Miller looks at a blank, grassy area of Leeds Elementary School’s courtyard, and she sees murals on the walls, a garden and painted tiles leading to the perfect outside classroom.
That vision is on its way to coming true.
Miller’s proposal to transform the courtyard was chosen as one of 200 Alabama Bicentennial School Initiative projects that were announced in August. The designation also named Leeds Elementary School as an official Bicentennial school and comes with a $2,000 grant. The project will be completed during the 2018-19 school year.
Miller isn’t wasting time. She set the first community volunteer day to get the project started for Sept. 22 from 9 a.m. to noon, when help is needed to plant red and white camelia bushes in the courtyard. The colors represent Alabama’s flag and the camelia is the state flower.
The second workday is Oct. 6, when the school will make benches. Those interested in helping can sign up at Leeds Elementary School’s website.
“I’ve been wanting to do something with this courtyard since I got here five years ago,” Miller said. “The timeline is for this school year with partners in the community. The whole project is about building relationships between schools and their communities.”
Leeds Elementary School Principal Justin Burns said the school is grateful to be a part of the Bicentennial project.
“Our community takes great pride in our schools, and we believe the opportunity to revitalize our courtyard is something our students and parents can be proud of,” he said. “The original creation of the courtyard was done by Mr. Owen Drake, our previous state representative. We are excited to create an area where students can learn while taking part of the recognition of our state’s Bicentennial year.”
The courtyard has already gotten some recent TLC from a Church of the Highlands group that heard about Leeds Elementary winning the designation and asked how they could help. Miller put the 60 volunteers to work getting tree stumps out of the way for the outdoor classroom and pressure washing the walls and sidewalks.
The Bicentennial plan includes four murals that will be painted in the spring. Two murals will be an outline of the state and a happy birthday state seal. The other two will be voted on by fourth and fifth graders, since Alabama history fits in with their curriculum, Miller said. The third graders have a job, too. They will be painting stepping stones with what they think makes Alabama unique, Miller said.
The Bicentennial schools’ projects across the state range from oral history projects to community gardens to mentorship programs, with a goal of fostering new relationships between schools, students, and local citizens, extending well beyond Alabama’s bicentennial celebration, according to the governor’s office.
“It makes me so proud to see such a strong showing of schools participating in the program. It is an honor to recognize these outstanding schools and their projects as we head into Alabama’s bicentennial year,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement. “The Alabama Bicentennial celebration is about bringing communities together and getting all of our citizens involved. The schools being honored are a great representation of that goal.”
Steve Murray, co-chair of the Bicentennial Commission’s Education Committee, said in a statement, “One of the core objectives of the bicentennial is to get Alabamians thinking about what makes our state special, and what they want it to be. The terrific projects developed by the Alabama Bicentennial Schools will create opportunities for students to learn about the importance of community, and to discover the ability they have to shape the future of their corner of the state.”
VOLUNTEER DAYS FOR BICENTENNIAL PROJECT
Leeds Elementary School is hosting volunteer days throughout the school year for community help completing their outdoor classroom/courtyard renovation project. Here are the dates, projects and a link to sign up. Times are 9 a.m. to noon.
September 22 – Camellia planting
October 6 – Bench-making
October 27 – Making stepping-stone path
November 10 – Prime walls for murals (Note: the outside temperature has to be +50 degrees F)
March 16, 2019 – Mural painting
April 13, 2019 – Mural painting completion
Sign up here: https://goo.gl/forms/CUhWf7Jzw8IS00Ku1
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