How kids at two Tampa schools made it through COVID, as a mural tells
TAMPA – A sprinkling of stars spells out the word “believe.” A light bulb frames the word ‘innovative’. A butterfly signals freedom and rebirth.
And, in the middle of them, two young people face each other, wearing masks while discussing.
These brightly colored images fill the cinderblock wall between Buildings 4 and 5 at Town ‘N Country Elementary School, courtesy of two groups of students in an unusual partnership.
Town ‘N Country and nearby Berkeley Preparatory have been working since October to commemorate their schools’ responses to COVID-19.
“This work is 100 per cent student-made,” Town ‘N Country manager Otis Kitchen said as the young artists put the finishing touches on Tuesday. “The educators really wanted to get involved and engage in the painting process. But they actually resisted, so to speak. Everything is directed and piloted by the students.
The idea came from Town ‘N Country art teacher Julia Prieto, who heard that the two schools were collaborating on peer tutoring.
Prieto students were already working on a pandemic-themed exhibit. Each student and adult chose a singular word, and the word cards were interspersed with abstract patterns.
Prieto wondered, why not an outdoor mural?
Berkeley’s National Art Honor Society supported the project, under the direction of high school art teacher Carrie O’Donoghue. The students raised $1,100 to pay for paints and other supplies.
They shortened the long list of words, focusing on those that are most relevant to the experience of the pandemic. Examples included “perseverance”, “determination”, and “patience”.
They discussed many design concepts before the first splatters of paint hit the wall.
“Now in the future when new people come in, or the new generation that doesn’t know about the pandemic, they can be notified,” said Journey Melton, a fifth-grade student who was among those who painted. Tuesday.
Journey and his classmates were in third grade when the pandemic hit. Looking back on those months, they remember disrupted routines, boredom and isolation at home.
Returning to school wearing a mask, Journey said, “I forgot what people’s faces looked like.”
It wasn’t much different for the students at Berkeley, who struggled to keep up with their virtual classes and felt many of the same emotions described by the younger children.
“Definitely, patience,” said 17-year-old Keira Hamilton. “Working with the system, you know, being creative in how I can hang out with my friends online. I was definitely looking at those words, like they really ring true for me and my experience with COVID.
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Kitchen, meanwhile, was trying to unify a school that was new to it as half of its students were learning remotely.
“Teaching and learning won’t happen if people don’t feel valued and feel like they’re part of something,” he said. There were days, he said, when he was at his students’ house, making video calls to their teachers to make sure no one lost touch.
The experience reinforced Kitchen’s belief in the one-word strategy as a means of getting students to focus on central concepts.
“Honestly, the main goal is for the students to feel empowered and have a legacy, and also for our school community to come back and really see how we’ve been able to get through this pandemic together,” he said.
“Because if you look at those words, all of those words have to be about being motivated, being determined, and ultimately working together to overcome obstacles.”