Walls Come Alive in York Region Elementary Schools

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This is my first blog about my exciting journey of painting Greenbelt murals in York Region elementary schools.

I will start with how all began. I was one of 40 artists that were asked to make quilt squares for a quilt about what the Greenbelt meant to us for the Quilt of Possibilities. I am also a teacher. The kids saw me working on my square. They wanted to make one for our school, and so we did! 

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When I told the Greenbelt people about it, they came to our school and were blown away by what the students had done. They created the "Young Friends of the Greenbelt' award just for us.

I suggested that we repeat the experience in other schools and educate more children about the importance of the Greenbelt, and here we are. I am painting murals in three more schools this spring.

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The kids are so excited about painting the murals. They love the idea of painting on the school walls, and they love the fact that the paintings are permanent. Most of what kids produce in a school day is done on a computer or on a piece of paper that is disposed of. They take the permanence of the murals very seriously. I tell them when we start a mural that this is like being  part of a choir or orchestra. We work together as a team to produce something beautiful. They love the fact that painting the murals on the school walls transforms their school from institutional concrete block walls to windows on a beautiful magical world.

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One child walked past the mural while we were painting and threw his arms up and said "Wow, walking here is like going on a two minute vacation!"

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 The students recognize the Greenbelt as being a place where birds, animals, fish and insects live and flourish. We are painting murals of rivers full of fish, beaver dams and birds, and trees full of fruit. The students tell me that having the Greenbelt so close to where they live is very valuable to them because it gives them a place to enjoy wide open spaces, forests, rivers and ponds. They talk about going for hikes and picnics and how they enjoy the sounds that are so different from the city sounds.

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The kids are also aware of the farmland they enjoy having so close to home. They talk enthusiastically about eating fruits and vegetables that are grown locally. They talk to their parents about buying crops harvested nearby. They also say they hope the farms in the area will still be there for their children.

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-- Katherine Laco, the wonderful teacher and artist who is heading up the Greenbelt Mural Project in York Region

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