BROOKSVILLE — When the West Hernando Middle School sixth-grade class completed its yearlong project, geography teacher Kevin McManus decided to celebrate. He organized and invited the 120 students to an official unveiling of what they had accomplished.
Beginning in August, with the help of a few older students for artwork and building, the sixth-graders created a double mosaic in McManus' classroom, reproducing two paintings by noted artist and Highwayman James Gibson.
One of the first steps was for eighth-grade art students Devon Rennie, 13, and Elizabeth Croan, 13, to enlarge the paintings using an overhead projector and trace them onto concrete boards. "It was really blurry, so we had to pay attention to detail," Devon said.
Then, the sixth-graders spent the next several months breaking, sorting and gluing tiles to the sketches, creating the mosaics that are displayed on campus and shown to visitors during the Earth Day celebration. The artworks are held in place by three bright orange painted supports decorated with whole tiles.
There is a sun mounted on the center support that has water flowing from it into a pond below. The pond and the paintings are placed in a garden.
The West Hernando Middle School band and chorus added a festive air to the unveiling. They were led by band director Wayne Raymond and chorus director Morgan Burburan. Three sixth-grade students, Megan Roche, 12, Claudeen Guillaume, 11, and Rayanna Riecss, 12, provided prepared remarks.
Principal Joe Clifford thanked James Gibson, who was unable to attend, for allowing the students to copy his work. "He was generous for allowing us to re-create his work here," Clifford said, pointing out that the project was a collaboration among the sixth-grade teachers.
The parents were impressed with the finished project and talked about how much their children enjoyed making it. Melanie Mullins, 31, said her 12-year-old daughter Serena Blasius "absolutely enjoyed this. It was the greatest thing. It was so hands-on and in a group."
Raechell Owens, 37, and Bill Owens, 43, were at the school to see what their daughter Taylor Owens, 12, was working on all year. "It's pretty cool," Bill Owens said. "Actually, it's more than what I expected. I know Taylor enjoyed working on it."
Raechell Owens sounded like she might want to put Taylor to work using her newly learned skills. "I think we should have one at the house," she said. "We're looking for something at the pond."