Painting Colorful Mural Helps Keep School Green

Lexie Allshouse carefully colored a blue-and-pink butterfly. Chase Climczak daubed in green grass around a flower. Madelyn Good painted a delicately patterned border.

Put their artistry together with their classmates’ plus a team of environmental student activists, and you have an impressive mural of the natural world at Valley View Elementary School. On the last full day of school, Valley View fifth-graders took turns Chris Corey colors in a friendly butterfly completing the many-paneled mural painted on a retaining wall between the school and playground. Depicting scenes of Michigan woods, waters and wildlife, the mural was created over six years as part of a school ecology effort.

The Valley View Green Team was formed in 2008 by teachers Nancy Berg and Angie VanElsacher to raise student and community awareness of the environment. The team, which grew to as many as 80 fourth- and fifth-graders, includes committees on recycling, energy efficiency and other concerns. They have raisedmoney for endangered species protection, planted a rain garden and cleaned up road trash along with teaching ecology lessons to younger students.

Chase Klimczak daubs in green grass in his portion of the mural Green Team members sound committed to the cause. “I want the earth to be a greener place,” said Seth Kolderman, who helps the school recycle paper and plastic. “I think people should ride their bikes instead of using cars,” added Lexie Allshouse.

Berg, who now supervises the students with fellow teacher Susan Osborn, says the students decide what projects to tackle. “Every year it’s different,” Berg said. “That’s what’s neat about it. It just kind of grows.”

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Valley View Elementary School

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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