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School earns first-place award for mural

Patti Ellis, and art teacher at Silverdale Elementary School, spearheaded a mural project at the school. - Photo by Celeste Cornish
Patti Ellis, and art teacher at Silverdale Elementary School, spearheaded a mural project at the school.
— image credit: Photo by Celeste Cornish

A community arts project that brought students and staff of Silverdale Elementary School together was recently honored in an art contest. The school’s project, an enormous mosaic made of 45,000 pieces of tumbled, stained glass that was designed to look like an aquarium.

The project was awarded a gift certificate from the company from which she purchased the stained glass, Mosaic Tile Arts in Tacoma.

“We wanted to do something that would involve the entire school and the community,” said school’s part-time art teacher, Patti Ellis, who spearheaded the project last spring. “We’re the dolphins, so it was only natural that we have a sea theme.”

Ellis got the idea of a mosaic from her oldest daughter who is the assistant curator of education at the Tacoma Art Musuem. In the course of about 13 hours, spread out over three nights, and with the helping hands of about 500 community volunteers, a piece of the school’s wall became a colorful tribute to life under the sea. The project was dubbed “Mosaic Madness.”

Students who were not able to make it to the organized work parties were able to work on the mosaic during their lunch breaks, Ellis said.

The entire process of building the mosaic took about four months and the students were involved from the very first pencil sketch to the last tumbled glass placement. A group of sixth-graders were given leadership roles in the process and had to sign an agreement and get parental permission before beginning. The sixth-graders gave ideas that all were incorporated into the final project.

The project also was incorporated into other subjects besides art. The students learned the history of mosaics, and some students created paper mosaics by drawing a picture, ripping it into pieces and putting it back together.

The mosaic was created on basic plywood with a good coat of primer that was bolted to the wall. Ellis then drew a color-coded sketch onto the plywood, which gave the guidelines for the glass to be placed and glued.

The end result was revealed at the school’s carnival. It was a hit.

“People just sort of gravitated toward it and started touching it and saying ‘I did that part right there,’ “ Ellis said.

The glass for the mosaic was purchased a community engagement fund that was allocated by the district to each school in the Central Kitsap School District. That fund was cut this year because of state budget cuts.

“We knew that was probably going to be cut so we were looking into doing something pretty spectacular last year,” said Silverdale Elementary Principal Jeff McCormick. He was impressed by Ellis’s ability to develop a curriculum that worked for all the students.

McCormick said the best part of the project is the ownership the students take in it.

“The most rewarding part for me is when kids pass by it and point to the parts they worked on and say to their parents, ‘Remember we worked on that part?’” he said.

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