OAKLEY -- A small group of teens spread out along the length of a mural, some wearing more paint than others.
One girl was filling in the outline of a swan floating along a very blue Rhine River while other members of Freedom High School's art club daubed color elsewhere on the series of 8-by-40 plywood panels serving as their canvas.
"Just knowing that you've created something that's going to last for a long time -- kind of like leaving your mark," said 16-year-old Anna Muradyan of the satisfaction she's experiencing by participating in the after-school project.
When they're finished this spring, the panels will be mounted on the exterior wall of a portable classroom at the back of the Oakley campus, brightening up the expanse of blacktop that's flanked by nondescript buildings.
"We just think it's really bland out here," said Spanish teacher Gloria Payette.
Payette came up with the idea of creating wall paintings featuring icons of the countries where the languages that she and her colleagues teach -- French, Spanish, German and Mandarin Chinese -- are spoken.
Teaming up with art instructor and club adviser David Gautier, she initiated the undertaking last school year with the help of a grant to cover the cost of the house paint, wood and brushes.
Gautier and a couple of students in the art club thought up ways to depict the countries, which take viewers from the San Francisco Bay Area to Mexico, Peru, Argentina
The first half of the mural that's already on display outside the foreign language classrooms shows a dancing couple in traditional Mexican costumes, a silhouette of the Shanghai skyline lit up with fireworks and people holding aloft the likeness of a dragon in celebration of the Chinese New Year.
The Great Wall of China curls around a complex of religious buildings in Beijing known as the Temple of Heaven; adjoining the Far East in this not-to-scale panorama is the Iguazu Falls, a natural wonder along the border of Argentina and Brazil.
A couple of young soccer players and Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí's ornate Barcelona basilica are the symbols for Spain along with Don Quixote, the protagonist in writer Miguel de Cervantes' classic novel.
Birds accent the scenery throughout: A condor soars over the 15th-century Incan ruins of Peru's Machu Picchu, and Spain is linked to the dove that appears in some of painter Pablo Picasso's works.
In the space dedicated to France, a sparrow perches on the hand of singer Édith Piaf -- her last name is a slang term for the small bird -- who was once that country's most popular entertainer.
The inclusion of icons such as Piaf is an attempt to acquaint students with historical figures and places they're less familiar with, Payette said.
"We don't want Charles de Gaulle coming through the Arc de Triomphe -- it's been done and done," she said.
Indeed, Martha Magsombol, 17, hadn't heard of Piaf or Bavaria's Neuschwanstein Castle before she started working on the mural.
The project also has been an education for Muradyan.
"I never really knew the famous singers or how the (Berlin) skyline looks," she said.
Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.