Tullahoma’s Bel-Aire Bees are spreading their wings to see that learning has no limitations. The elementary school is implementing several new practices into the second semester of the school year to accommodate all types of young, learning minds.
A few months ago students at Bel-Aire had the opportunity to collaborate with other schools from around the world by doing a Traveling Mural Project.
The kids were able to connect with students their age from the United States and Canada to learn more about their geographic locations, local cultures and how we are all more alike than different regardless of where we come from.
The idea sparked from a book titled “Maybe Something Beautiful” that told the story of a young girl who wanted to paint a mural in a dreary town. The mural was soon added to by citizens in the community to form a beautiful painting that added color, diversity and life to the town.
The busy Bel-Aire Bees painted 10 pieces of a mural designed by art teacher Jennifer Uselton. The mural encompassed the theme of the school and some of the culture from the area. This mural was cut into 10 pieces – Bel-Aire kept one piece – and the remaining sections were sent to several schools for them add to their mural.
In return, the receiving school would send a piece of its students’ mural back to Bel-Aire to connect the areas and display to students that our world isn’t so big after all.
“I wanted our students to begin thinking about global connections,” said Bel-Aire Principal April Norris. “The traveling mural was the first activity we did with other schools to show our students that learning has no ZIP code.”
The traveling mural is now complete with hand painted squares by students from several states and even another country. The mural includes the work of students in Van Meter, Iowa; Amana, Iowa; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Delta, British Columbia, Canada; Irving, Texas; Douglas, Georgia; El Lago, Texas; Leawood, Kansas and Middlefield, Connecticut.
“Painting the bee on the mural was a lot of fun,” said first-grader Brysen Hall.
“I had fun painting on the mural,” agreed Mattie Hodges, who is also in the first grade.
The traveling mural hangs on the wall in the school’s hallway for students to see the finished project. Each section of the mural is numbered with a list of information about each of the places that the section came from. Students are able to visit the mural to remember the project and what it means to learn without limitations. The mural will one day be painted on the wall so that it can be remembered forever.
The school will continue to make connections with students in other locations throughout the year.
Library maker space
The library at Bel-Aire has recently created a maker space for students to learn in new, interactive and hands-on ways.
“We created this space for our kids to come create and explore,” said Bel-Aire Librarian Lisa Winton. “The space allows the kids to get hands on with activities while exploring new technology and information.”
The maker space focuses on using techniques for all learning styles. Whether it be verbal, visual or auditory, all students have a learning style that is unique to them.
This week, students learned about circuits, including how conductors and insulators work to complete an electrical circuit. With Valentine’s Day coming up, students made Valentine’s Day cards that lit up to display their understanding of electricity and currents.
Students are also using the makers space to learn about computer coding, software programming and design, – and for the older children – how to create their own video game.
According to Norris, the purpose of the maker space is to make sure students are future ready. As technology advances, students are able to obtain an understanding of what it takes to power and program electronic devices we use every day.
A new addition at Bel-Aire Elementary is a reading room that will ignite creativity as the room will be decorated in a Dr. Seuss theme.
Bel-Aire received a $14,000 grant from the Ben Carson Reading Project to renovate a room in the school and fill it with books that will inspire a love for reading.
According to the Carson Scholars website, The Ben Carson Reading Project is an initiative of the Carson Scholars Fund, a nonprofit organization founded in 1994 by Ben Carson, the current secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and his wife, Candy.
“The grant allowed us to purchase books and flexible seating,” added Norris. “This room will give students a place to go when they want to get away and do some leisure reading in a relaxing environment.”
The room has several options for children to relax. They can choose between brightly colored chairs to sit on or they can choose to sit in a bathtub to read. There will also be flexible seating throughout the room for students who prefer to stand, sit on the floor or sit in a more traditional seat.
The room stays true to its Dr. Seuss theme with bright colors and quirky décor. The walls are a work in progress as they will be decorated with some of the most famous characters of the Dr. Seuss legacy. The new reading room is still a surprise to students and will not officially open until March or once all renovations are complete.
Faith Few can be reached by email at email@example.com.