Leah Perrino was initially skeptical when she and her classmates at Scottsdale’s Mission Montessori School were asked to create a mural as a class project — she was afraid people would laugh at it.
But the third-grade student was beaming Wednesday as she stood in front of the 65-foot-long Mural of the Eons, a three-dimensional depiction of the beginning of time through present day that’s now a permanent fixture on the school’s fence.
“Making the mural was really a pleasure,” Leah said with a grin.
The project was a result of a $2,000 grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, said Principal Betty Matthews.
That money helped the school bring in Joan Bourque and Carol Hildebrandt, two artists from the Verde Valley, several times between October and March.
All of the school’s 151 firstthrough sixth-grade students participated, with each class working primarily on a panel that represented the time period they are learning this year, Bourque said.
“Once you learn something, you want to put it up for the world to see,” Bourque said.
The artists initially taught the students to draw and work with papier-mache and clay in the fall.
But the mural itself was a new art form for the two artists, who had to experiment to figure out how to put a 3-D mural on a wrought iron fence, Bourque said.
In the end, they ended up building eight panels of wire netting, using tile adhesive on parts of some panels and plastic foam on others to create a canvas.
But while the artists came up with the method to create the piece, they left the project up to the students. Each class had to figure out how to artistically represent what they were learning, Bourque said.
Studying this timeline is a normal part of the Montessori curriculum. Students start by learning about the big-bang theory and early life in the younger grades, then progress through dinosaurs, early man and finally ancient civilizations as they get older, said teacher Carol Mulder.
Part of the curriculum usually involves a timeline drawn on paper, she added. But thirdgrade student Ross Douglas said creating the mural was a much better experience.
“We needed to have it three-dimensional” instead of on flat paper, Ross said. “It wouldn’t look as if it were coming alive.”
This is the second year Mission Montessori has won the grant. The school used it last year to study Chinese culture.
Mulder said she has already put together an application to win the grant next year, too, so Mission Montessori can bring in an Apache artist to help the students study indigenous cultures.