Students at Scarselli Elementary School made the last three weeks of Mike Callahan’s tenure as art teacher at SES a hectic whirl of creativity, smiles, helping hands and wishful goodbyes.
In just 21 days, Callahan and over 440 students created a mural that not only speaks to imagination but also to community. The theme of the mural is “You Are Part of Something Greater than Your Individual Self.”
The papier mache mural depicts the underground home of an ant colony, taking up about two-thirds of the height of a corridor wall. Above ground are real wheatgrass, dried sagebrush and tree branches and a painted background featuring the Carson range of the Sierra, blue sky and clouds reaching to the ceiling.
Papier mache, brush and branches give the mural three-dimensions, but what makes it unique are the insects that fly over head and crawl on the walls around the mural and down the hall.
“They thought it was a good idea,” Callahan said the students told him after he pitched the proposal.
The idea for the mural came to him a couple of years ago, and when he was told he had three weeks to complete an art project with students in all grades, K-6, he thought he would give the mural a try.
“This is my third year here,” he said. “They’re pretty open to my crazy ideas. They just can’t wait to see what I’ll do next.”
Each grade level had a specific job in creating the mural, Callahan said. In three weeks, he saw each batch of students just three times.
Kindergartners made the ant eggs, using chicken egg shells and wood and pipe cleaners. The 1st grades made worker arts and 2nd grade made scavenger ants. Third grade made caterpillars and 5th grade made dragonflies. The butterflies were made by the 6th graders. There’s even a paper-wasp nest.
The insects were made of paper towels and tape. The ants were painted black and the colorful flying bugs were painted as the whim took each artist. The mural was built of wood supports, chicken wire, papier mache and paint.
During lunch and Kids’ Club after school, students would hang out with Callahan, working on the mural. Some 60 students and a few parents worked on Saturday, Jan. 2, hanging the mural.
Finishing touches came last week and tearful goodbyes were made on Friday, Callahan’s last day in the district. If he had had more time, Callahan said, he could have worked with the classroom teachers and incorporated science and other academic subjects into the project.
Among the students to wish Callahan goodbye were students from Tracy Gruber’s 4th grade class, who wrote notes to Callahan.
Juliana Aguilera wrote, “Thank you for putting so much effort into the mural.”
Aleysha Monson said, “I like the bugs on the ceiling. It really looks like they’re flying.”
Megan Pruitt said, “You’re cool and nice.”