5th graders at Rainier View Elementary School paint a mural representing the school’s core values and mission. Photo by Olivia Sullivan, the Mirror

5th graders at Rainier View Elementary School paint a mural representing the school’s core values and mission. Photo by Olivia Sullivan, the Mirror

Mural stimulates creativity for Rainier View Elementary fifth-graders

Learning opportunity that is both hands on and minds on

“Mistakes are what art is all about,” said artist Emily Rapada, as students from Rainier View Elementary School generously applied blue paint to the side of a school portable. “It’s always OK to mess up.”

The fifth-grade classes at Rainier View in Federal Way are the helping hands behind the new colorful mural on campus that reads “The sky’s the limit,” and “Respect, cooperation, responsibility,” surrounding an image of the school’s mascot – an eagle.

The classroom portable is home to Glyn Jenkins’ fifth-grade class. Jenkins is a second year teacher at Rainier View, but has 15 years prior experience teaching in Liverpool, England, along with New York and Seattle.

“I kept seeing this space on the wall and thought it was just crying out for something that was artsy, but also purposeful for the kids,” Jenkins said. “A massive image or mural of something that could be inspiring.”

The painting fuels the students’ creativity and serves as a visual stimulation for the community, he said.

“Education is about the kids,” he said. “Having them involved in something where they’re working together, they see the potential in something. They can see a blank space and the creative aspect of what it can become and be part of making that happen.”

It was important to involve as many fifth-grade students as possible, he said.

“It’s a real collaborative experience for the whole of fifth grade to work together and develop that teamwork,” Jenkins said. “Art is massively important, and having these symbols and these keywords around is just a real cool reminder of what we’re about and how we want our kids to achieve what they’re going to achieve.”

Over the summer, Jenkins mentioned the idea to Assistant Principal Amy Rapada, whose daughter is a recent art engineering graduate from Stanford University. Amy and her daughter brainstormed a mural design to include important keywords and symbols.

“They’re participating in a learning opportunity that is both hands on and minds on,” Amy Radapa said.

The mural allows students to build peer relationships, creates a positive work climate and encourages the kids to set high expectations for themselves, she said.

What initially was a passing conversation quickly became a vibrant reality.

Emily Rapada, Amy’s daughter, led the small groups of fifth-graders taking turns painting throughout the day, offering advice and words of encouragement to the young artists.

“A lot of kids are told ‘you’re not good at drawing,’ or ‘you’re not creative,’ and the creativity gets stamped out of them at a young age,” said Emily Rapada, who is planning to pursue a master’s in education, focusing on the field of learning design and technology.

With the mural project, Emily Rapada continually emphasized each student’s accomplishments and hard work.

“Everyone can be an artist,” she said. “I think every every artist would tell you that making mistakes is an important part of the process. There’s no reason any of those students couldn’t become an artist or become anything they want to.”

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