École Dorothea Walker Elementary School in Kelowna. (File photo)

École Dorothea Walker school murals capture post-pandemic optimism

Teachers and students come together in creating wall panel murals

The marriage of art and inspirational words helped create a healing journey for students and staff at École Dorothea Walker Elementary this spring.

School principal Susan Bergen said the mural panel project was inspired by the school approaching the end of the tunnel of a difficult year due to the COVID-19 pandemic public health restrictions and regulations.

“As excited and hopeful as we are now, we also see how people are tired and are feeling the effects of isolation they are required to work within,” Bergen told Central Okanagan trustees in a Zoom presentation at the board of education meeting on Wednesday (May 12).

“We needed something to help bring our school community together and remind ourselves of the importance of who we are in the community.”

That inspiration came in the form of La vie en turquoise –‘our journey of reflection and hope.’

Bergen said the objective was to reflect on the learning challenges of this school year, and what students feel is important to them individually.

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“We wanted to do that in a positive, hopeful, optimistic way that was beautiful, which is the purpose of art,” Bergen said.

The murals were worked on by the collaborative effort of students and staff during April and now hang on a wall in a school hallway, with the process of developing and completing them both captured on video and in a book.

“This project has been an inspiration for students because it reflects what is important to them,” Bergen added.

“It has been a great project and something we all needed at the time, believe me.”

Bergen noted students were asked to contribute a word of inspiration for the murals, something she noted that Central Okanagan Public Schools superintendent/CEO Kevin Kaardal is a strong advocate behind.

Kaardal noted he has talked with school principals about how their schools can engage in projects that frame the pandemic experience looking ahead when students hopefully return to normal classroom conditions come next September.

“We talk about that within four words – reflect, reconnect, recover and renew – and the Dorothea Walker project is an example that meets all four of those word objectives,” Kaardal said.

“As we hopefully move forward this fall…it can be a super powerful message.”