The mural sweeps around the corner, across the expanse of the classroom wall, before turning the opposite corner and ending. It tells a story that is appropriate for a room used to inspire children who visit the Springs Coast Environmental Education Center. The artist, Christine Weeks, 43, divides her talent among businesses, schools and organizations. She does portraits and teaches part time at Chocachatti Elementary in the microsociety painting class.
It was at Chocachatti where Weeks met Cheryl Paradis, the education center's teacher. Situated in bear habitat, Paradis requested a mural for one of the center's classrooms to depict the area's wildlife.
"About a year later she had me do the water conservation room," Weeks said. The theme of the work is the five E's of science, plus one. Paradis added "excite" to "explore," "extend," "explain," "examine" and "expand," Weeks said, "because she definitely excites the kids."
Weeks depicted "explore" as tracks along the wall, "extend" as the life cycle of a caterpillar, "explain" as a pictorial description of the water cycle, "examine" as a worm under a microscope and "expand" as the food chain with predators and prey.
"It took about five hours staring at the wall just to know where to sketch things," Weeks said. She concentrates so hard, she said, "I've been known to step in my paint."
Paradis keeps asking Weeks back because she sees the value in the colorful, educational walls. "They're a great teaching tool. They're very attractive. They actually draw students' attention and they start to ask questions," she said. "It builds on curiosity."
Although Weeks does the artwork, Paradis determines what the walls should teach. "She puts a lot of thought and effort into the design," Weeks said. "She just has a great ability."
Amber Addario was a volunteer at the center assisting Paradis during the time Weeks was there painting. She looked at the walls and said, "I think it makes a child who might not ask a question, ask a question, definitely."