Students create art for new school building

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FALMOUTH — The students at Lunt and Plummer Motz schools have been working diligently this year, not only on their math and reading skills, but also on their tiles.

Art teachers Katie Hall and Bonnie Taylor, and Artist in Residence Nanci Kahn, helped each class choose a theme for the ceramic tiles that will be installed in the new elementary school when it is finished next year.

“We told them it would be there for the next 100 years,” said Taylor.

Throughout the school year, the students designed, laid out and painted each of the tiles themselves.

“We did the designs on paper first, then transferred it onto the tiles,” said Kahn.

The art teachers worked closely with themes from the students’ classrooms. One class was studying Maine wildlife, so their mosaic depicts a moose, bear and other local animals. Another class was studying other cultures, so their theme was Moroccan good luck hand prints.

Then things got messy – but in a good way.

The students had to work together to draw pictures of the animals, decide which pictures looked best, choose the colors and lay out the design onto the tiles. For some classes, the mosaic looks like a puzzle, with each tile functioning as an individual piece. For other classes, each student designed his or her own tile, and was limited to certain colors and themes.

“They had to collaborate to choose the animals. They learn how to respect each others’ opinions,” said Taylor.

The tricky part came when the teachers had to explain that the glaze might have looked lavender-purple when it came out of the container, but once it was fired in the kiln, it would turn navy blue.

But once the students got the hang of it, Kahn said, they had a great time working on the project.

“It was a really big project to organize and keep organizing,” she said.

The students’ designs had to be traced onto the tiles, then each tile had to be numbered, fired in the kiln, and laid out in an organized way so they could be stored until they can be installed in the new building.

“We only broke three tiles,” said Taylor. “It was great  – 100 percent successful.”

The idea for the project came out of a past collaboration between Kahn and the elementary school art departments, and was made possible by a grant from the Falmouth Educational Foundation, which paid for the supplies and tiles.

“We were thinking about the future and we wanted to do a collaborative project,” Taylor said.

Kahn, whose own children went through the Falmouth schools, said she wanted to work on a project with the students that would give them some ownership of the new school building.

“Schools should echo the voices of the children,” added Hall. “Even in the summer, their voices are still there.”

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or

Sidebar Elements

One of the many student-created ceramic tile art projects that will soon be displayed at the new elementary school in Falmouth. Art teachers spent the year working with students to create educational and beautiful designs that will be installed throughout the new building.