200 young artists produce a mural masterpiece in Running Brook's cafeteria



Arming 200 elementary school pupils with paint and brushes sounds like a recipe for disaster. But the idea turned into a masterpiece at Running Brook Elementary School.

For two weeks in April, fourth- and fifth-graders worked in groups of seven on a mural of the Wilde Lake community for the school cafeteria. The mural will be unveiled officially Thursday at the school's spring concert.

The mural runs the length of the cafeteria - 4 feet by 30 feet - and incorporates the tiniest details, down to dozens of people enjoying the surroundings that include Wilde Lake and a bike trail.

The school enlisted the services of Sylvia Benitez, a visual artist who came to the school for two weeks and worked with the pupils, in part through a $2,000 grant from the Maryland State Arts Council. The school's PTA paid for the other half of Benitez's residency.

"It captures the essence of the Wilde Lake community and the spirit of creativity that our children show," said Principal Lisa Booth. "Sylvia worked really well with our boys and girls, and she worked well with their strengths."

Cheyenne Sharpe, an 11-year-old fifth-grader, said she painted buildings, people and trees, but the hardest part of the project was painting individual bricks on some of the houses.

"We had to put so many coats on it," said Cheyenne, who estimated that she worked on the mural for five 30-minute periods.

Before the project, Cheyenne was intimidated by pointillism - applying the paint in small dots or brush strokes - which the pupils used.

"I said, `Oh my God, it must have taken a master to do this,'" she said. "But when I did it, it was a lot easier."

Cheyenne said she plans to attend an art camp this summer.

Honor from NAACP

The Howard County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will recognize 49 schools that each received an A on its 2005 report card, which monitors African-American student performance.

Sixteen of the schools did not receive less than a C on the report card, and will be recognized as distinguished schools.

The presentation will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Board of Education in Ellicott City.

The 2005 report card focused on attendance, graduation rates, dropout rates, suspensions, Maryland State Assessment scores in reading and math and High School Assessment scores in English, biology, government and algebra.

African-American students have the second-highest dropout rate and second-lowest graduation rate in the county, according to 2005 statistics from the Maryland State Department of Education. African-American students also have the lowest passing percentage of all ethnic groups on the English, mathematics and algebra components of the HSAs.

"We are hopeful that that momentum will continue, and this gap will evaporate or be eliminated," said Natalie W. Woodson, chairwoman of the Howard NAACP's education committee.

She said that there is still a way to go with the high school scores - not one high school achieved distinguished status. "The elementary schools are really moving ahead," she said. "Most of them are beginning to show great progress."

Spring Fun Fair

The lawn near Glenelg Country School's lower school campus will be transformed into a smorgasbord of entertainment for 45 Cedar Lane School students tomorrow during the annual Spring Fun Fair.

The 90-minute event, which is to begin at 10 a.m., will feature an animal petting zoo and arts and crafts.

In all, students from Cedar Lane, a school in Fulton for special-needs students, will get to chose from 25 activities.

At Glenelg Country School, 75 ninth-graders are using the activity as part of their Civic Leadership program.

"It's all in an effort to educate them about service and special-needs students, and it will give them a chance to interact with those students in a fun and educational way," said Julia Southern of Glenelg Country School.

3 get scholarships

Three high school students in Howard County have been awarded scholarships totaling $7,000 and been named recipients of the Howard County Arts Council's 2006 Arts Scholarship Program.

The students were judged on submitted work samples, artistic merit, understanding of artistic discipline, a successful academic record and commitment to a career in the arts.

The winners include: William Dougherty, a senior at Wilde Lake High School, who received a $3,000 scholarship to be used in his study of music theory and composition; Jennifer Leung, a senior at Howard High School, who received a $3,000 scholarship to be used toward her study of violin; and Sae Mi Jang, a senior at River Hill High School, who received a $1,000 scholarship to be used for her study of visual arts.


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