OAKLAND -- Edna Brewer Middle School received a new look over the Veterans Day weekend, when artists and families mounted 16 mosaic renditions of California native wildflowers to the exterior wall of the school's courtyard under the direction of mosaic artist Rachel Rodi.
The students have responded enthusiastically to the project and enjoyed choosing their favorite flower, Rodi said.
"Community art creates worth in a public sense," Rodi said. "Participating in projects like the mosaic project empowers kids and shows them that they can make a difference in their world."
The school does not have a dedicated art teacher, so the project began in the science classroom, when students, studying California native wildflowers, drew them in science teacher Jeri Schnieder's class.
Teachers, such as Schneider, weave art throughout their curriculum.
"I teach science from an art perspective," Schneider said.
Rodi took the drawings and enlarged them and transformed them into templates for the mosaic pieces.
In addition to learning the anatomy of the native wildflowers, "kids learn hands-on skills versus mental skills and how to work in a group," Rodi said.
Kathy deRosas, whose daughter who will enroll at Edna Brewer in 2015, wrote the proposal to the parent teacher student association, which funded the project.
"It's nice to come to a place that's really beautiful," said deRosas. "Nobody wants to come to a place that's full of garbage."
DeRosas had made it her mission to bring keep art in the school and spruce up the campus at the same time.
This is the third art beautification project undertaken by the community. In 2006, a mosaic panther sculpture, created under the guidance of Rodi, at the industrial arts workshop, the Crucible, was erected in a weed and garbage laden area called the pit.
Today, the panther stands in a field of native grasses, with metal sculptured flowers -- also forged at the Crucible -- hanging from a nearby wall.
"When you get kids involved in owning their community, they will automatically care for it," Schneider said. "If there is something on the wall the kids made, no one will graffiti it. The kids will come forward and say, 'Hey, I made that.'"
"I love art. This is perfect," said Suzi Cruz, mother of a seventh-grader, who volunteered to help install the mosaics. "We've got a lot going on here. It's like a private school in a public setting."
Tracy Davis, from Danville, a mosaic artist, also served as a volunteer.
"Our kids went to such privileged schools," Davis said. "Not everyone gets to. I think this is an important project to give kids pride in their school. If it's drab and dreary, it's not good for the learning process."
"It's more than a project; it's a community building thing," Schneider said. "Any project that makes them stop comparing themselves is one of the most valuable lessons I can teach. These are the kids that are going to take care of us in my old age. Instead of saying what they can't do, say what they can do."