After receiving a grant through the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education for her third-grade class, one teacher at West Lauderdale Elementary teamed up with two other teachers to address the state’s “Brain Drain” issue. Math and science teacher Corey Boykin is currently in graduate school and received this grant for a project. “So, we received $100 for supplies, and the mission was to read a book called Make Something Beautiful. So, after reading the book and gathering some ideas from the students, we decided to create the mural of Mississippi with some important parts from Meridian,” said Boykin.
The “Brain Drain” issue deals with graduates leaving the state after graduation, and this project aims to inspire these elementary students to stay and invest here in Meridian. “There are so many careers that involve art, even if you’re not directly an artist. You still need to know how to follow directions, which we work with a lot in here. We also deal with creativity, being able to think outside the box, coming up with your own ideas, and putting those to action,” said the K-4 art teacher, Stephanie Anthony. Third graders in one of Anthony’s art classes came together, outlined, and painted the mural, which is located in the cafeteria.
“Once the mural was finished, kids were asking, ‘hey, what’s that?’ and ‘I didn’t realize Meridian has this.’ I have two children in third grade myself, and they were even asking, ‘hey, can we go by and see Soule?’ So, it’s just opening those doors of things they weren’t even aware of right here in their hometown,” said Boykin.
While this mural is to allow
them to see what Meridian has to offer, their involvement in art is also a main focus, which, Anthony says, is crucial for learning. “That time to just have a little freedom to do what they want to do really helps their development, because we all need our little bit of down time, and art can allow that. At the same time, they are still learning and developing skills that they will use their entire life.” Due to a lack of funding, art classes are not provided by the state. Anthony’s art classes, as well as her job, are fully funded by the school’s PTO. The third grade reading teacher, Ms. Crawford, was also involved in the project.