So we’ve finally begun work on the Connected Messages Mural project at McPherson! As we need 64 boxes total for each of the Murals I extended an invitation to participate to the summer program that goes on downstairs at the library. Primarily kids under the age of 13. I asked the coordinator if she could pick about 5 kids to start that she thought would enjoy the project. We decided that 1 o’clock would be a good time to begin with them.
When I arrived at the library in the morning I got the supplies together for the project and sat down at my usual spot in the library to get situated and figure out the best way to present the material to the kids (all of whom haven’t had the chance to meet or work with me before). Once I sat down I found myself slowly being surrounded by interested kids who wanted to participate!
It was decided that “Community” would be the underlying theme of the McPherson Mural. First up we had to wire up the boxes with copper tape and an LED. In order to preserve the precious copper tape from the crushing hands of youth, I cut the proper sizes from the spools first. That made it much easier for the kids to handle. We didn’t lose a single piece to mangling! The wiring-up of the boxes went surprising fast.
The next step was to discuss the theme and talk about things that each of them thought of when they think of their community. It was a bit sad to hear their initial responses of “not safe”, “no good”, “staying inside and watching TV”. I wasn’t entirely shocked by these comments…I get to see what they’re community is like every day. I personally don’t live that far away, either, so at least from an adult’s perspective I know what it’s like. But I was able to get them to start discussing positive things. A lot of the positive emotions came from thoughts of family or statements like “I love my mom”. So we went with that. One of them wanted to make a box about recycling (not because the community is all that trash-conscious, but because it’s something he wanted to say he feels is important to making a community healthy).
We were on a roll for the first half of the day with minimal distractions or headaches from a few wandering trouble-makers. Eventually had to start getting ready to set up in a separate area to work with the other summer program kids at 1. A couple of the kids asked if they could make more boxes later on. “Definitely!”
Once I was set up for the afternoon session the chosen few kids came and found me waiting. I was initially told 5 kids, but ended up with 7. I explained what we’d be doing and they were all very willing to jump right into it. They were all real quiet, not even talking much to each other. I was expecting a lot of talk, but they got right down to it. They were quick to figure out the copper tape (since it’s a bit tricky to peel off). And once we got their boxes wired I started talking about the ideas of community and what they “enjoy about your community” (I didn’t want them to have the same initial reaction the morning group did so I changed my presentation slightly). I got some really good responses and then they got to work making the covers for their boxes. They really liked using up all the space and using all the color they would. It was great to see. And again, a few asked if they could make some more boxes later.
I still have to figure out a few things with attaching the boxes to the board, etc, but overall the kids really seemed to get into this project and I can’t wait to see when we get it fully operational! I’ll be posting more as more gets completed.