It’s never easy to bring nature into a classroom, but teachers and students at the Hampstead Elementary School in MD have found a way to recreate it in a fun, educational and brightly colored way.

The ceramic mural project, From Our Yard to the Bay in Clay, was completed in the spring of 2011 and visually makes the connection between rain and streams to the Chesapeake Bay, highlighting a host of our native flora and fauna.

Terry Whye, the coordinator for the Artist in Residency program, along with Barbara Hammond, the Hampstead Art Instructor, organized this project to bring an innovative new teaching method to the students. Sharon Bailey, President of the Prettyboy Watershed Alliance, helped the students understand the concepts of the Chesapeake Bay and the watershed, using educational models of communities and their watershed provided by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. Every student, including the kindergarteners, was involved in some piece of the mural.

“They each got to choose which piece of the local flora or fauna to sculpt and they learned a lot about watershed ecology in the process”, Bailey says. Whye remarked that teachers immediately begun expressing how they plan to use the mural in next year’s curriculum.

Possibly the greatest attribute of the mural was the final rewarding experience it brought to all those involved, including the organizers, teachers, students, local environmental organizations and a large group of community volunteers.

We hope to see more excellent projects like this that can incorporate community and cooperation building along with environmental stewardship.