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Learning by doing

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LES mural project involved math, social studies

By Stephen Lega

Before last week, Lebanon Elementary School just had an "old, gray wall" in its hallway, according to fifth-grader Gavin Hasty. Under the guidance of artist Pat Ritter, however, fifth-graders and kindergarteners transformed it into a mural celebrating their community.

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"It's been a really good time," Hasty said.

Ritter spent the last two weeks guiding LES students through the creative process.

LES art teacher Charles Ramey received a $1,080 Teacher Initiated Project grant from the Kentucky Arts Council, and the LES Parent-Teacher Organization and local banks raised $570 in matching funds for the project.

"I had an idea that would use the kindergarten curriculum in social studies and math to do a mural," Ramey said.

Many people in the arts community as well as the Kentucky Department of Education have been encouraging the incorporation of art into other subjects like math, science, reading and social studies, he said.

Students made their own sketchbooks during the project. Ritter talked to students about basic shapes, such as circles, rectangles and triangles, and showed them how to recognize those shapes in the buildings. The students then created their own representations of the buildings as well as self-portraits.

"We're also teaching them colors and how to use a brush," Ritter said.

Ramey said the fifth-graders took photographs of various community buildings, but they also had to learn about those buildings. For instance, the St. Augustine Church was used to represent religion in the community, the David R. Hourigan Government building represented government and Lebanon Elementary represented education. Students also learned about the people who work in these places and about the kind of work they do.

When it came time to paint the mural, the fifth-graders had to use fractions, proportions and graphing skills (because of the grid pattern on the wall) as they sketched the outlines of the buildings onto the wall.

Since school was out Friday, Ramey said he and Ritter would clean-up the mural, but there was still one last thing for the students to do.

The mural has been named "Culture, Community and Diversity." While the first two aspects of that title were addressed already, the diversity element will be added this week.

Students will create cut-out versions of themselves, which will be added to the mural. The community's diversity will be reflected in the diversity of Lebanon Elementary's student population, Ramey said.

As fifth-grader Kelly Newton carefully applied fresh paint to the mural, she explained that the fifth graders had painted the background and sketched the outlines of the buildings in chalk. More than that, she just seemed to be having a good time.

"I love to paint," Newton said.