Maple Hills Elementary students create giant glass curtains

May 3, 2011

By Laura Geggel

Maple Hills Elementary School student Rianna Belaire (left) reaches for a glass chip while Mikayla Jaeger creates a multicolored mosaic on her glass tile for a schoolwide art project. By Laura Geggel

The kindergartners got the color red. First-graders decorated with blue. Second-graders used orange.

For a schoolwide art project, Maple Hills Elementary School students are creating giant, glass color-coded curtains that will greet visitors passing by the office.

“I think it’s an awesome idea,” fifth-grade teacher Katie Turnley said. “The kids are really excited to see the final product.”

The idea for the project started three years ago, during the Maple Hills PTA auction. Parent volunteers asked donors to raise their paddles for art, and collected a whopping $5,300, a sum that paid for a comprehensive art project involving every grade.

Next, the PTA had to brainstorm what project would be appropriate for all grade levels. It chose to work with Bedrock Industries, a company using 100 percent recycled glass to create art.

Bedrock Industries creates glass tiles with copper or brass hooks, allowing artists to connect the tiles, creating a glass curtain.

PTA volunteers gave clear glass tiles to every student, a pot of Elmer’s glue and glass chips of varying colors to each grade level. Students glued the chips to the tiles, forming designs, like flowers, or abstract collages.

“We wanted to do something that everyone in the school, from kindergarten to fifth grade, could do,” PTA President Dawn Peschek said.

After every student and staff member has created a tile, the school will have about 600 works of art hanging in its entryway. Once Bedrock Industries fires the glass tiles in its plant in Seattle, parent volunteers will string the tiles together, creating the curtains of glass art.

Bedrock Industries Manager Chris Munford said he was continually impressed by Maple Hills’ creations.

“Every time we open the kiln after we re-fire them, we are surprised by how great they look,” he said.

Each curtain will represent a grade level — with green for the third grade and yellow for the fourth. Fifth-graders, the top of the school, decorated their tiles with every color.

“I’m going to do a zigzag and do red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple,” fifth-grader Abigail Russell said.

Her classmate, Ashley Schalkle, had another idea.

“I did more abstract art, so I just layered it,” she said.

The fifth-grade classes completed a similar glass project earlier this year, using the school’s kiln. But this one is different, because “it’s pretty cool that everyone gets to do it,” fifth-grader Riley Hendrickson said. “Usually we have just fourth-grade or fifth-grade projects.”

Once the glass curtains are strung up in May, Peschek said parents need not worry about seismic activity affecting the project or the safety of children. The tiles from all six grades weigh less than 30 pounds, and will be hanging from stainless steel cables bolted to the ceiling.

Maple Hills has two other schoolwide art projects on display. Students created a ceramic mosaic by the multipurpose room during the 1998-99 school year, and an outside tile mural honors former Principal Shirley Roberts, who served from 1988-2001.

“Once an eagle, always an eagle,” a plaque to Roberts reads.

“It’s become a permanent part of the school,” secretary Suzanne Schantz said.

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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