Community Rallies To Fund Kiln To Enrich Art Program

Community Rallies To Fund Kiln To Enrich Art Program
Buckingham Elementary art teacher Melissa Reid is pictured with the new school’s new kiln. Submitted Photo

BERLIN – Students at Buckingham Elementary School will soon have access to a kiln thanks to the efforts of the school’s PTA.

After a PTA-led fundraising effort last year, Buckingham Elementary School has now added a kiln to its art program. Installation of the kiln, purchased primarily with donations from Berlin’s Arts and Entertainment Committee and the Ocean City-Berlin Optimists Club, is currently being finalized. Melissa Reid, the school’s art teacher, says the kiln will give kids the chance to use real pottery clay.

“It’s going to provide kids with a chance to express themselves,” Reid said.

In the past, Reid has given kids air-dry clay for projects. While students enjoy the chance to shape the clay, it can’t be fired and their creations aren’t very durable. When the school worked with an artist in residence on a tile mural a few years ago, Reid realized how beneficial a kiln could be. Though kids created pieces for the mural, those pieces had to be taken to Berlin Intermediate School’s kiln so they could be fired and installed on the school wall. Aside from the inconvenience, Reid said the experience showed kids how much more was possible with clay that could be fired.

“It really gave the kids an appreciation for real pottery clay, what it can do,” Reid said.

Buckingham’s PTA, which tries to support the school and its programs however it can, developed a plan to raise $6,000 to buy a kiln. Though the pandemic interrupted the effort, the PTA was able to raise the money through donations from the Berlin Arts and Entertainment Committee and the Optimists Club.

Reid said the pandemic actually highlighted the value of the kiln, as it will allow kids to explore art, something that has provided solace and self-expression for many during a technology-heavy time.

“It’s so tactile,” she said.

Though it starts out as what looks like a lump of mud, after being shaped and fired the clay becomes something completely different.

“It’s transformed so dramatically,” Reid said. “It’s wonderful for children to see that change.”

Jeff Smith, president of Buckingham’s PTA, said the organization was happy to help. Along with supporting stand-alone projects like this one, the PTA also works on annual efforts. The group raises money to help buy Field Day shirts for students and raises money for initiatives during Teacher Appreciation Week.

“We have a small but active PTA,” he said.

Smith added that the group, which also advocates on behalf of parents when they have concerns, welcomed new members.

“PTA works best when it’s a collective voice,” he said. “The more people in it the stronger PTA can be.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.