Sixth grade students at the Guilford Central School, (L-R) Alexa Lussier, Nathan Kenny, Jamie Peters and Molly Peters work on a mural at the front of the
Sixth grade students at the Guilford Central School, (L-R) Alexa Lussier, Nathan Kenny, Jamie Peters and Molly Peters work on a mural at the front of the school representing the town of Guilford. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)

GUILFORD - Jamie Peters is a sixth-grader who is, according to his twin sister, "really into art."

But taking a paint brush to a prominent wall near the front entrance of Guilford Central School is a new experience for him.

"I feel like I'm learning a lot," Peters said. "I've never done a mural before."

He is one of 17 members of Guilford's sixth-grade class, and each of those students is playing a role in the creation of a large mural welcoming visitors to the elementary school. The goal is to have the project completed in time for Town Meeting so that attendees will file past a colorful commemoration of local history and landmarks.

"I think it will be a good chance to show everybody what we can do," said another sixth-grader, Jacob Paranto.

It's also a good chance for members of the class to work together on a big, high-profile project. With Guilford voters last year having decided to send the town's seventh- and eighth-graders to Brattleboro Area Middle School, the sixth-graders are now Guilford Central's senior class.

And they are carrying on the school's tradition of "place-based" education. That means using local resources -- and the town itself -- as part of the curriculum.

For example, sixth-graders have continued the former Guilford Middle School's Farm to School Program. And they have undertaken the mural under the tutelage of art teacher Meredith Gourley.

"This was something to go with the place-based curriculum that they've been doing for years now," Gourley said.

Planning for the mural began in October, with students splitting into groups to develop concepts. The entire school then voted to choose one of those seven concepts.

There have been revisions to make the mural more cohesive and practical. Last month, after returning from their Christmas break, students started work on what is envisioned as a large postcard, complete with the words "Greetings From" in the upper left and "Vermont Pride" in the upper right.

Below, the town's name is spelled in oversized letters. Within those letters are landmarks and symbols of Guilford including Broad Brook Grange, Green River Covered Bridge, the Tontine Building, Christ Church, Guilford Community Church and a tapped maple tree.

The project also been a place-based learning experience for Gourley, who is new to Guilford.

"I'm not from the area, so the kids told me about some places to check out," she said. "I took some pictures to use as references."

She helped students get the mural started by scanning the design and projecting it onto the wall so that it could be traced in pencil. The sixth-graders now are painting the mural on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Sixth grade students at the Guilford Central School work on a mural at the front of the school representing the town of Guilford.(Kayla Rice/Reformer)
Sixth grade students at the Guilford Central School work on a mural at the front of the school representing the town of Guilford. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)

"It's been going very quickly given how little time they have to work on it," Gourley said.

It helps, she added, that students, staff members and parents who pass by don't hesitate to compliment the young artists while they work.

"We've been getting a lot of positive feedback," Gourley said.

As she stopped by to check on the project, sixth-grade teacher Jen Kramer said students are doing more than honing their artistic skills.

"It was teamwork and coming together and collaboration," Kramer said. "They learned how to develop an idea. It became about more than one person and one group. It's everyone's idea."

Gourley said every sixth-grader is participating in and "feels some ownership" over the mural project. That includes Molly Peters, who was painting alongside her brother Jamie.

"It's really fun to be able to do it," Molly Peters said. "It's cool that it's going to be up for a long time."

Paranto, in addition to contributing to the paint job, has another duty: He is documenting the process with an iPad mini.

"I'm trying to get much more footage than I actually need," Paranto said.

There was a glitch at the beginning of the project, as some video was lost. But Paranto clearly was enjoying the job this week as he circled around the painters, shooting video and pointing out features of the iPad.

"It's been a learning experience for me," he said. "I think it's been a learning experience for everybody."

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.