The solar system, the seven continents, the plants and wildlife of the earth’s many regions, sea life, people from all over the world, Oregon’s landforms, and the St. John’s neighborhood: the beautiful mural at Sitton Elementary in North Portland encourages you to stop and take in all of its details – just as many families, students, teachers, and community members did during Sitton’s Multicultural Night on Thursday, March 21. A mix of painted paper cut-out designs, painted and glazed tiles, and clay constructions, the mural fills almost the entire wall in the hallway that leads to the café-auditorium and gym where the festivities for Multicultural Night were being held.
Before they got in line for the dinner provided by a local Mexican restaurant or watched the many cultural dance performances, students proudly led their families to the mural to point out the piece they contributed. Conversation followed with the students explaining how they designed their tile or clay piece, how they painted and created their animal, person, flower or insect, or how they made the Oregon landform or St. John’s landmark. Even the students who were performing found time to share and marvel at the mural. And, some of the liveliest reactions were from visiting George Middle School and Roosevelt High School students who were clearly jealous that they hadn’t had a chance to participate in making the mural!
“Art Tells Us About Our World” – this title isn’t just for the mural. It’s also an apt way to describe both the intention of the mural and the many learning opportunities that students experienced during their Right Brain residency with artist Sarah Ferguson of Young Audiences. Sitton teachers were committed to using the residency to support their classroom instruction – they wanted the art-making process to enhance students’ understanding of geography, science, social studies, and most importantly, their understanding of community and connectedness. To reinforce this idea of interdependence even more, the Sitton staff participated in the mural-making as well – their panel is the centerpiece of the seven continents! Just as this mural helped to create conversations between people passing by during Multicultural Night, it will serve as a permanent reminder and reference point for the entire Sitton community.
Congratulations and thanks to the entire Sitton community and to artist Sarah Ferguson!
Amy Botula is a Coach with The Right Brain Initiative, facilitating the Right Brain experience with partner schools in Portland and Gresham. Read more about Amy and the rest of the Right Brain staff.