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Riverton Mural Welcomes Diversity

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Riverton Mural Welcomes Diversity
Posted on 04/05/2019
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Riverton Elementary School students recently unveiled a colorful mural they created for the lobby of their school that welcomes everyone and celebrates the diversity of the school.

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest and most diverse school district and Riverton is one of the district’s most diverse schools. The new mural, unveiled March 14, says in English that “Everyone is welcome at Riverton School” and also says “welcome” in numerous other languages. It also depicts a table filled with special foods that people from different countries typically serve to welcome their guests.

“This mural changes the experience of entering our school,” said Riverton art teacher Chad Hart, who spearheaded the project. “It sends a powerful message that our school is welcoming to all students and people, and we celebrate the diversity that our school has. It brightens up the entrance with color, pictures and its message. It completely transforms your mindset and attitude when you come through our doors.”

Hart, the district’s art coordinator, applied for and won grants from the Maine Arts Commission, the Foundation for Portland Public Schools and the Riverton PTO to create the mural at the school. Visiting artist Laurie Downey, a local visual artist/designer and educator, worked with fourth- and fifth-graders during the fall and winter to generate ideas and design the mural. She then worked with students to help paint the mural.

Creating the mural was a learning experience in many ways for the students, Hart said.

“They learned about other cultures and about customs to welcome people to a community,” he said. “They learned how to write out the stories of their families and how they welcomed others and were welcomed through food, gifts and celebrations. They learned about the foods that families make for these events, and how many of them had connections to each other and to these customs.”

Students shared what they learned and put it into their sketchbooks to help create the mural. They worked together in small groups to get their drawing and writing down onto the mural, and paint pictures and words to help create it, Hart said.

“They learned about what it means to create something meaningful for the school community that will be shared and experienced by everyone who comes to our school,” he said. “They talked about what diversity means at Riverton and throughout the globe, and the importance of inclusion and acceptance in our society.  They learned how they can be helpful in providing a welcoming message to every student and person who comes to our school.”

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