GBEMS students leave lasting mark

Green Bank Elementary-Middle School seventh grader Ty Cochran stands next to the history mural he painted on the wall near Amanda Nottingham’s classroom. Along with featuring major historical events, the mural has a legend showing the year those events took place. S. Stewart photos
Green Bank Elementary-Middle School seventh grader Ty Cochran stands next to the history mural he painted on the wall near Amanda Nottingham’s classroom. Along with featuring major historical events, the mural has a legend showing the year those events took place. S. Stewart photos

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

Most teachers will agree that students should not write or draw on the walls, but Green Bank Elementary-Middle School art teacher Alison Flegel sees things differently, at least, when it came to her middle school students’ art projects.

This school year, students in Flegel’s advanced art class were given a very interesting task – design and paint murals on the walls of the school.

The students enthusiastically jumped into the project and came out with stunning and colorful designs ranging from displaying their school pride to illustrations of their favorite subjects.

Of all the students, one in particular was so inspired, he designed not one, not two, but eight murals in total. While only one mural was selected to grace a wall, seventh grader Ty Cochran is proud of the work he created this year.

“I got through them really fast,” he said. “I had one for the preschool – it had a bunch of colorful stuff. Then I did one for the kindergarten with A through Z and 1 through 10, and then I did one for the math room down the hallway in the elementary wing.”

Cochran also designed several other murals, including one for history teacher Amanda Nottingham’s room, which Cochran painted with the help of Iam Johnston.

“I sat down with Ms. Nottingham and we came up with some stuff,” he said. “We came up with some big things from history.”

The history mural includes scenes from the Civil War, World War II and other major events from the past. It also includes a helpful key with colored dots pointing out the year each event took place.

Cochran, who admits he isn’t a huge fan of painting, is interested in becoming an artist one day and is proud to have left a piece of his work behind for younger students to enjoy.

“I think they make it more colorful and not so boring, and they can inspire kids,” he said. “I think my favorite part is that it will be there for all the kids who go through school here to see.”

Seventh grader Sienna Bircher and her math mural at the entrance to Julie Brown’s classroom. Bircher used bright colors, mathematical puns and equations to make her mural fun.
Seventh grader Sienna Bircher and her math mural at the entrance to Julie Brown’s classroom. Bircher used bright colors, mathematical puns and equations to make her mural fun.

Located beside Cochran’s history mural is Sienna Bircher’s math inspired painting. Full of mathematical puns and equations, the mural is a colorful reminder that math can be fun.

“I was thinking about middle school, math and I knew you do a lot with Pi and Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally,” she said. “I kind of tied that in and [math teacher Julie Brown] helped me come up with the idea of the invisible eye and the Pi sign.”

Bircher also included a large pencil spelling out Be Inspired, with the “pi” replaced by the Pi symbol and a calculator with 0.1134, which upside down, spells Hello.

“I had a lot of fun because I really like Mrs. Brown and she really liked the mural,” Bircher said. “I liked doing something special for her.”

While several of the murals were themed to match classrooms, some display the GBEMS Eagle pride as well as attractions from the county.

Seventh grader Jennalee Meck’s mural was inspired by Green Bank and features of the surrounding area, including the Cass train and Green Bank Telescope. Her mural is on the wall in the cafeteria.
Seventh grader Jennalee Meck’s mural was inspired by Green Bank and features of the surrounding area, including the Cass train and Green Bank Telescope. Her mural is on the wall in the cafeteria.

Seventh grader Jennalee Meck was inspired to paint an Eagle head with the Cass train and Green Bank Telescope mingled into the design.

“I just wanted to incorporate places in and near Green Bank,” she said.

While Meck is not planning to pursue art as a career, she does enjoy being creative and taking Flegel’s class. She also enjoyed giving back to the school with her mural.

“It’s kind of nice to have something here because I know it’s my project,” she said. “I think the kids like it. It just kind of gives a pretty touch. It gives our school a little more character.”

With the mural project complete, Flegel has her sights set on next year and is excited to implement a ceramics program. With the help of the Snowshoe Foundation and GBEMS PTO, Flegel was able to purchase an electric kiln and supplies to teach ceramics to students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

“I’m really excited about setting up the ceramic program here,” Flegel said. “We have a kiln and we have clay and glazes. We’re just waiting for fall. That’s what I’m really focused on is turning the whole art program into a ceramic program for at least the first nine weeks, maybe two nine weeks.”

Although it is still in the early stages, Flegel said she is trying to come up with a large ceramics project similar to the murals for students to participate in next year.

In the meantime, she hopes to continue adding murals or other art projects to the school to truly make it a piece of art.

“I think it’s been a success,” Flegel said of the mural project. “It really has made the school look awesome – and the kids – they have more pride in their school. They’re taking ownership of the school.”

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