Fireflies, ladybugs, stick-bugs and other crawly critters climb on numbers across walls at Kentwood Public Schools’ Hamilton Early Childhood Center.
Next to each of the classroom doors at the preschool facility stands a larger-than-life-sized, vibrantly-colored Michigan wildflower.
The painted number mural and flowers are the work of East Kentwood High School sophomores Amanda Nguyen, Emma Pinchak and Gilliam Romanow, who spent several summer days adding the vibrant paintings to the building for preschoolers to enjoy. The numbers are complemented by an alphabet mural created by students in 2012.
Accompanied by high school art teacher Adrienne DeMilner, the girls researched native flowers to paint next to the doors. They came up with ideas to help preschoolers learn their letters and numbers while adding whimsical art to the school. The flowers tie into a mural of a honeybee, the school’s mascot, that DeMilner painted a year ago.
“We were busy bees,” DeMilner quipped. “What’s important to me is that the students know they have a talent that can make other people happy.”
“I really wanted to give back to the community and impact these kids’ lives,” said Amanda Nguyen. “I love painting. It’s my forte and my passion, and I really enjoyed it.”
The girls plan to return to add another mural to the school’s new sensory garden, located on an outside courtyard. Preschoolers will draw pictures that the high-school students will paint onto a large wall bordering the garden. “It gets the little kids involved too,” Amanda said.
The murals add to several others at Hamilton painted by high-school artists, including members of the school’s National Art Honor Society, in years past. One illustrates children of many different ethnic backgrounds holding balloons.
“It absolutely makes our building pop,” said Lori Eaton, the center’s director. “It adds so much color when you look down the hallway. It’s very inviting and kid-friendly.”
The murals make great visuals for teachers to use with students learning their alphabet and numbers, shapes and colors, Eaton added. “It’s another learning tool. They can be active in conversation. Instead of just walking down the hall, they are having another learning experience.”
Kentwood art students have had an impact community-wide. They have created murals for the high school, the East Kentwood Freshman Center, the Kentwood Branch of the Kent District Library and the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. They are planning a mural for Bowen Elementary School.