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Stepping to the future

Mae Richardson students are making clay tiles for a mosaic to decorate the school's new courtyard

CENTRAL POINT — Students at Mae Richardson Elementary School are helping to create a path for future generations to follow ' a path covered in flags, trees, family pets and other local and national symbols that will forever preserve their perception of the world around them.

Mae Richardson's artist in residence, potter Peppi Melick of Roseburg, is working with the 500-plus youngsters as well as after-school program participants to create a community-themed mosaic for the walkway along the school's new courtyard.

Melick's work is being funded through a two-part grant from the city of Central Point and the Arts Council of Southern Oregon.

Principal Kathy Tompkins said that aside from exposing the students to a unique and beautiful art form, the mosaic would add the finishing touches to school improvements completed last fall through the &

36;29.8 million school bond.

This is a new courtyard that leads up to the school from the parent parking lot. It's where all of our parents enter the school, so it's nice to have something on display that was done by the children. We're very excited about it, she said.

The mosaic's theme, A Child's Expanding World, will offer snapshots of daily life and modern times according to age level.

Kindergartners will create clay shapes and pictures of themselves or pets. First-graders will offer pieces portraying their families, and second-graders will create pieces such as books or school buses to represent their school.

Fourth-graders will depict Oregon through symbols such as the state seal, beaver (the state animal) or covered wagons. Fifth-graders have the task of telling about their country, world and universe, which they have done through the World Trade Center towers, the planets and symbols of patriotism and recycling.

It sort of follows the natural progression that the students go through as they get older and realize the world around them, explained Tompkins.

Melick said the project, which will take approximately three weeks for artwork, glazing and firing, would not only introduce the students to working on a larger project but create a snapshot in time for the school.

Kaila Moore, a second-grader, decided to cut out a tetherball game and slide, her most favoritest things to do at school.

I think that'd be neat to come back and see it when we grow up and remember what we liked to do and because we would know we helped make it when we went to school here, she said.

Besides, explained 8-year-old Cheyanne Richardson as she fine-tuned her clay school bus, the mosaic and the sidewalk could very well last forever.

All of the kids that ever go here forever will get to walk on it, and they'll probably wish they got to help with it. It'll probably last a really, really long time. Maybe like 15 years. I think when my kids come here, they'll really like it, too.

Artist-in-residence Peppi Melick of Roseburg shows first- and second-graders at Mae Richardson Elementary School on Friday how to make clay tiles. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven