Students at Rolling Knolls create mosaics to raise funds and landscape

From a garden's need, a tradition has grown

December 02, 2007|By Susan Gvozdas | Susan Gvozdas,Special to The Sun

While other students watched a video on artist Leonardo da Vinci, fifth-graders Moira Plantier and Tayler Thomas carefully lifted glass pieces from a tray and gingerly placed them in wet mortar.

The two students were taking their turn during a Wednesday morning art class to create a glittering moon mosaic for the outdoor garden at Rolling Knolls Elementary School.

The class already finished the other side of the large mosaic coin that will be posted on top of a pole like a lollipop among the garden's decorative bushes. A bright yellow sun is on the other side.

Every class is decorating its own mosaic sculpture, which will be auctioned during the school's annual spaghetti dinner next spring. Last year's auction was so successful that the fifth-grade class will get to keep its sun-moon sculpture on permanent display in the garden.

Tayler is pleased. She said the auction is exciting, but it is hard to see one's work whisked away by the highest bidder.

"It's kind of sad, because we did all the work on it," she said.

The mosaic project evolved three years ago because of a need to landscape the exterior of the school, said Terri Borges, owner of Nature by Design Inc., a landscaping business she runs from her home in Annapolis. Borges, who has two children at Rolling Knolls in Annapolis, volunteered to develop a plan.

Over the years, the school's bushes had become overgrown and blocked the view of the smaller children exiting the school.

Borges offered to do a landscaping plan. She enlisted parents and businesses to volunteer their time to work on the landscaping, eventually getting $25,000 worth of in-kind contributions. They put in a brick walkway, rose bushes and other plants.

Borges, a parent volunteer, thought it would be educational and fun if students could contribute mosaic sculptures to decorate the front garden.

To raise money for the materials, the school decided to auction the student-made artwork at its annual spaghetti dinner/silent auction in the spring. Each year students could repopulate the garden with their art.

The first auction was held in March.

The school raised $3,500 from the sale of the mosaics and T-shirts designed by Chris Borges, Terri's husband. The money covered the $1,500 to $2,000 needed for this year's project, Borges said.

This will allow the students to keep at least two of the mosaic sculptures. In addition to the sun-moon mosaic, the school will keep a six-foot terrapin sculpture that the whole school worked on.

To prepare for the project, Borges chooses the design -- fish, butterflies and flowers -- and creates the sculpture.

She draws an image on several plastic foam pieces. Then she cuts them out and glues them together to make them more substantial. She covers the plastic foam with fiberglass mesh and smears it with mortar. Once it is dry, the sculpture is ready to be decorated with glass.

Students choose the color of the glass they will use.

Borges takes sheets of the thin, colored glass and cuts them into small pieces. Again, she smears wet mortar over the dried portion and students place the tiny pieces of glass on top.

The students work in pairs during art class, each getting between five and 10 minutes to paste on pieces. After they are done, Borges uses mortar to grout the pieces.

During the project, Borges tries to teach the students about technique and terminology. She said students who don't particularly like art or school just love the project because their artwork gets such prominent display.

"For some kids, they never get that out of school work," Borges said.

Tucker Bullen, 11, said the mosaic piece is his favorite art project.

"I think it's a lot more interesting than painting all the time," he said. "You actually have a challenge."

Emma White, 10, said the mosaic project is different from others because it leaves more room for mistakes.

"It might not turn out like you want it to, but no matter what, it looks good," she said.

Principal Jane Taylor said she would be happy to see the garden filled again with student art. The mosaic garden became a favorite among visitors to the school, who keep asking when they will see the new mosaics.

"It turned out to be far more captivating that we thought it would be," she said.

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