Elberta Middle School in Baldwin County, Alabama, was recently announced as a 2020 Classroom Mural Award winner in the Wyland National Art Challenge. The contest encourages students across the nation to think about various conservation issues and how to interpret those issues through art. Winning classrooms in the contest each receive $500 from the Wyland Foundation for classroom art supplies.
A group of 7th and 8th graders in Elberta’s recently established art program participated in the project with guidance from their art teacher Linda Hill.
“I only had the students for three months before we took on this large task,” Hill said. “With help from the Weeks Bay Reserve we put together a 5-foot by 10-foot mural that represents our estuaries and the wildlife that inhabits them.”
The mural is currently on display in the Elberta Middle School front office.
Before work began on the mural, Education Coordinator Angela Underwood and Education Assistant Clara Zubrick with the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Fairhope, Alabama, provided the students with hands-on learning experiences that highlighted the state’s various estuarine habitats.
The Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is managed by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (ADCNR) State Lands Division as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Estuarine Research Reserve System.
“State Lands staff continue to develop innovative ways to connect classrooms with the outdoors,” said Chris Blankenship, ADCNR Commissioner. “I appreciate all of their efforts to support conservation education during the pandemic.”
Estuaries are formed in locations where freshwater rivers mix with saltwater from oceans. These locations create important habitat and spawning grounds for a variety of aquatic species, including many saltwater fish found in Alabama’s coastal waters.
“The students learned about the importance of estuaries to the state’s ecosystem and created the mural to demonstrate what they learned,” Zubrick said. “Since many schools haven’t taken field trips due to the pandemic, we took the estuary to the classroom to help them prepare for the project.”