In honour of the new school year, which begins next week, I thought I would show off my classroom art. My children have attended the same elementary school since my daughter was only 3 years old. The school offers an excellent program called Strong Start, a drop in program for parents and children aged birth to five years. In taking them, I became fast friends with the Strong Start teacher, who quickly put me to work. Decorating the Strong Start classroom, along with some other very talented parents, was a great way to spend my mornings while my children played and learned.
I cannot take complete credit for this. The idea of the tree, and the trunk were the brainchild of my friend Adrienne, but since she ran off to work and left me to do everything, I have claimed the tree as my own.
You can do a lot of cool things if somebody gives you the keys to the school paper room. Using coloured paper from large rolls, we measured how tall we wanted the tree trunk to be, cut a long strip of paper and scrunched it up to add creases and folds. We attached the sides of the trunk to the wall corner with sticky tack (and the occasional staple) making sure to let the the paper curve away from the wall. I believe staples are less harmful to the wall because that sticky tack stuff takes big chunks out of the drywall. (I may or may not know this from experience)
I decided the tree needed leaves, so I got green paper from the store room. (Don't worry, this paper is not going to waste, the tree is still standing and this will be its third year in the classroom). I measured how much wall I wanted to cover. I am horrible with measurements, but in this case it did not matter because I could cover any bare wall space with extra bits and pieces of green paper wherever I saw fit. I cut the edges into cloud-like shapes to look like a tree outline and attached them to the wall with more sticky tack (and staples, don't tell). I was sure to leave some straight edges so the leaves could cover the wall right up to the ceiling and fill in the corner.
The branches are strips of scrunched brown paper. I stapled them to the top of the tree trunk, and arranged them to climb up the wall and come out toward the ceiling. The wall branches are attached with, you guessed it, sticky tack and staples. The ceiling branches are actually just tucked up under the ceiling tiles.
This tree is such a fun addition to the Strong Start classroom. The kids love it and gather around it for circle and storytime. It changes with the seasons. Sometimes it has glittered paper snowflakes hanging from its branches, or coffee filter butterflies or salt painted leaves. I am very proud of my tree.
Puff the Magic Dragon, and Honalee
With the success of the tree, I was asked to cover more walls. Puff the Magic Dragon is a popular book in the Strong Start class. The Puff I made was inspired by the magnificent paintings of Eric Puybaret featured in the book. Puff is made of paper from the giant roll. I drew him freehand, but an overhead projector could easily be used to trace him at a large scale. His face is drawn on with Sharpie pen, with white paper for his eyes. The colour details on his ears and scales are scrap paper. The wing is covered with purple tissue paper and purple feathers I found while raiding the teacher's craft closet. Puff was placed above the chalkboard at the head of the classroom to watch over the children and the land of Honalee.
I admit, Honalee was a bit self indulgent on my part, but I got to bring my acrylic paints out of hiding. This is an original work, but like Puff, was inspired by the Honalee in the book.
I sketched it freehand while looking at the book for ideas. I then hung it on the wall and began to paint. After it was dry I carefully cut out around some of the towers to make it look as though Puff is watching over the land, and not just sniffing a giant poster of it.
There aren't many, other than having to use the occasional staple in the drywall and the extensive ladder use. (something I am not a big fan of).
Puff is beginning to curl a bit with age, but that is fixable. The paper might fade over time, but so far it is holding up well.
The tree will last longer if there is something in front of it, blocking the children from pushing the trunk in.
About the Author
Summer is a stay at home mom, happily married to a teacher/musician in British Columbia, Canada. Also an art director for Bell's Alaska Travel Guides and freelance graphic designer, Summer always manages to find ways to share her love and knack for art and design with her children.