BERLIN – Thanks to the efforts of a former student, a bright new mural at Berlin Intermediate School celebrates a school-wide reading program.
As they returned to classes this week, many Berlin Intermediate School (BIS) students stopped to admire the new two-panel mural in the school’s main hallway. The expansive piece of artwork depicts themes from “Wonder,” the book students read last year for the “One School, One Book” program, and “Fish in a Tree,” the book students will begin reading next week for this year’s rendition of the program.
Salisbury University student Zach Davis, a graduate of Worcester County Public Schools, spent the past month painting the mural.
“It was incredible to work on it,” Davis said. “I’m excited for what books come next.”
According to BIS Principal Ryan Cowder, he happened to see Davis, a 2018 Stephen Decatur High School grad, getting honored for his artistic talent at a meeting of the Worcester County Board of Education in May. Knowing BIS was an arts immersion school — one that infuses art into curriculum to enhance learning — Cowder came up with the idea of asking Davis to create a mural tied to the “One School, One Book” program BIS started last year. The program, which was brought to BIS through the efforts of reading resource teacher Carolyn Mitrecic, encourages children to read.
Davis, who is studying graphic design and photography at Salisbury University, was quick to agree to Cowder’s proposal.
“I thought it was a project that drove home an important message,” he said.
Davis added that he was eager to give back to the school system, as teachers such as Berlin Intermediate’s Lisa Adams and Stephen Decatur High School’s Christy Powell had fostered his love of art and music.
“Worcester County Public Schools is what inspired me to pursue art,” he said.
Davis, who read both “Wonder” and “Fish in a Tree” prior to creating the mural, worked with Cowder to come up with scenes representative of the books. He said deciding on a scene for “Fish in a Tree” wasn’t difficult, as he wanted to highlight the book’s message to readers to be themselves. For “Wonder,” Davis decided to incorporate the theme of kindness with the main character’s love of space.
Davis, who completed the mural by working on it in the evenings so it wouldn’t interfere with his summer job, said the hardest part of the project was enlarging the scenes he created to fit the BIS wall.
“It was an interesting learning experience,” he said. “It was incredible to work on it. Art can really send important messages.”
Cowder praised Davis’ willingness to spend his free time on the project.
“I think the cool part is Zach taking the time to give back to the school system,” he said.
Cowder is hopeful the project will generate excitement for the “One School, One Book” initiative, which kicks off Monday as everyone in the school — from students to custodians — is given a copy of “Fish in a Tree.” By uniting everyone with a book, educators aim to encourage students to read, whether they’re at home or school.
“We’re hoping it becomes family reading time at home,” he said.
Kids will be able to talk about what they’ve read and share their reactions to the book at school.
“It gives kids the opportunity to learn that lesson and discuss it with other kids,” Cowder said. “When they’re able to talk it out it gives them an eye-opening experience.”
Cowder said he planned to ask Davis to add a panel to the mural each year once a new book was selected for the school.