By Nancy Wu
Franklin Elementary Parent
At 8 a.m. last Sunday morning, the Franklin Elementary School’s walls stood bare. By 5 p.m., through the generous and talented efforts of the school’s teachers, staff, and families, two new murals adorned the school.
One mural, “Discover The World Through Books”, decorates the wall that the teachers see from their parking lot. Its location was selected so that the mural would inspire the teachers as they headed to their classrooms. It is a beautiful image of tall books nestled in a rainforest among tropical birds. A bold image of Earth sits to the left. Ben Franklin, the school’s namesake, stands proudly in the middle.
Facing the playground is the second mural designed to promote cultural awareness and bully prevention education. Tara Brown, school principal, had the foresight to bring to her school the OLWEUS bully prevention program. It reminded us that most children will experience bully situations as bystanders. This program not only teaches how to work with bullies and help the bullied, but it empowers the many bystanders to help in numerous ways such as including children who are left out, helping those being bullied, and finding an adult to intervene in bully situations.
At Franklin’s anti-bullying kick off earlier this Fall, the kids signed a large anti-bully pledge banner and were given purple bracelets with the reminder, “Be a friend, not a bully”. Staff and teachers at Franklin are now clearly identified with bright orange t-shirts during lunchtime, recess, and other periods where many children are together outside. The t-shirts serve two purposes; they alert the children that an adult is nearby watching and make it makes it easy for children to find help should they need.
Led by local muralist David Legaspi III and his assistant Heather Forbes, Franklin families and
staff spent the day painting under David’s creative direction. He taught the method of dipping the brush
into three colors and painting diagonally to create an image reminiscent of impressionism. This was
truly a community effort as each volunteer got to mix and decide the color of their subject – a face, the
hair color, clothing, or playground toys. David reinforced the idea of appreciating diversity and
cooperation by allowing the kids to work together and decide the outcome of a mural that was
dedicated to the students of Franklin. The mural shows children of various ethnic backgrounds playing in harmony on a playground.
“Community painting has been an event that I have been dreaming to have at Franklin since I started here as Principal. It has been my experience that community mural painting brings students, parents, and school staff personally closer together. That is exactly what took place at Franklin Elementary on Sunday,” said Ms. Brown.
The kids had positive feelings for the day as well. The opportunity to add something to the school which would remain here for years was a common theme as to why they had such a memorable experience. Blake Benun, a 5th grader summed up the event by saying, “I had fun painting the jungle mural with my friends.”
“It’s exciting to know that when I come back to Franklin years from now, I will be able to see my work,” he said.
Sophie Hall, another 5th grader said that “at Franklin we value and study diversity.”
“The theme of the mural makes perfect sense,” she said.
“We have many more blank walls,” said Tara Brown with much enthusiasm. “I would love to see more community mural painting events at Franklin. Not only will our walls be esthetically beautiful, but also educate, challenge, and inspire our students for years to come.”