BAILEYTON – Kids will be headed back to school in less than two weeks, and at Parkside School in Baileyton, the students will see some exciting new features. Parkside Principal Richard Orr and his faculty and staff have been busy creating a colorful and whimsical learning environment with the help of local artist Aaron Sullivan.
Orr explained, “We want to make the school exciting for our students. If the kids are excited about school, they will be more engaged and will be successful in learning, reading and all things academic.”
The entrance of the school features the “S.S. Parkside” projecting from an ocean-themed mural with a breaching humpback whale, emperor penguins and bottlenose dolphins. The message for the students is: “Get on Board for Reading.” The entrance project set of a wave, of sorts, which has now swept throughout the school.
The original ocean scene created by Sullivan led to teachers and staff envisioning other projects that could be done by the talented artist. Teachers were given the liberty to decorate their classrooms in various themes and the results are a wonderland of imagination and fun.
Danny Weaver’s classroom has created quite a buzz. Sullivan recently finished transforming the entrance to Weaver’s sports-themed classroom into the University of Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Shared Sullivan, “I wanted to create the feeling a person would have as they walked into a football game.”
He incorporated techniques that give the scene incredible depth and dimension. The new artwork is a huge win in the hearts of all Bama fans who have already seen a photo of the entrance on social media.
Other rooms in the school depict Main Street at Walt Disney World, Star Wars, Charlotte’s Web, Science and Space. Horton Hears a Who and Cat in the Hat are currently in progress in the kindergarten/first-grade hall.
The seventh- and eighth-grade hall is a journey into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The classrooms represent the four houses of Hogwarts. Sitting in Mrs. Jones’ Slytherin-themed classroom, a student could easily imagine Professor Snape saying, “Turn to page 394.” Mrs. Douglas’ room represents Ravenclaw, with comfy sofas and decorative tables providing a wonderful environment for reading.
Continuing with the theme of Harry Potter, Orr has developed a program to bridge the gap that once existed between the first-grade students and their older peers.
He explained, “There was a disconnect between the different grades and halls and we wanted to find a way to bring everyone together.”
The students are now put into one of seven houses with names derived from Haitian Creole. The current champion is Veti (virtue) House, which accumulated the most points given for participation, winning challenges or exhibiting exceptional character. Parkside has created a list of 20 rules for the students to follow, and those rules are the foundation of the reward points the houses earn. Orr is a proud member of Respe (respect) House. Respe was the champion last year and Orr is confident in its return to glory. Sounds like a challenge!
The atmosphere created to “generate an enthusiasm when kids come to school” has already helped elevate Parkside. Orr was overjoyed as the school was selected last spring as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence and received a Blue Ribbon Lighthouse Award. The students’ test score levels and teacher instruction are being recognized as among the best in the country.
Orr added, “We want to build from the current level of success and continue to improve.”
There are six or seven more doorways to be painted and perhaps the students will soon have a Jordan-Hare Stadium. Sullivan is grateful for the opportunity to share his passion for art with so many people.
He laughed, “They keep me busy and I enjoy it. I would love to do this as a living one day.”
Sullivan does murals, portraits, abstract concepts, animals and many forms of artwork.
Orr sayid of Sullivan’s talent, “I am blown away all the time by what he creates.”
Although he will be busy at Parkside for the next several weeks, Sullivan invites those interested in his work to reach out at www.facebook.com/aaron.sullivan.773.
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