Akron Elementary School Courtyard Project

The Ephrata Review – November 6, 2019


Akron Elementary School kids shine at school board meeting

By Marylouise Sholly

Akron fourth-graders and their teachers showed the Ephrata Area School Board just how talented they can be and what they can accomplish when motivated.

During a presentation at the school board meeting on Oct. 21 in the Akron Elementary School, students displayed their project of a renovated courtyard which actually took two fourth grades to work on – one last year and the current students.

Fourth-grade teacher Kristen Selzer told the board about the courtyard design challenge and initial layout, which began last year and which was student-led, and the actual construction that began this year.

The courtyard requires a few finishing touches and when complete, will be used as an outdoor teaching area, Selzer said.

An Art Showcase was Oct. 29 at Akron Elementary School for area residents who wanted to see the students’ artwork, mural, and sensory pathway they created.

The students were able to participate in the artist-in-residence program through a grant from the Ephrata Area Education Foundation Venture grant.

Selzer and several students showed the board members what the kids had accomplished after a walk Monday evening from the auditorium to the newly designed courtyard.

Accompanying them was the school’s artist-in-residence, Katie Trainer from Millersville University, who guided the students with the project.

Fourth-grade teachers Kristen Rubeck and Ryan Levan were also integral to the courtyard transformation project.

Selzer also credited Bryan Redcay, director of facilities, with his help on the project, the construction of which began this past summer.

The courtyard had been a grassy, brushy area that was hard to maintain and little-used, Selzer said. After the area is completely revamped, with outdoor furniture included, it can be used by teachers for their students, Selzer said.

“On nice days, teachers can bring their students out here for a class,” Selzer said.

Still to come is a pergola to make sure there is some shade in the outdoor area.

First up, after a design had been decided upon, several students used an Adobe Spark computer program to create a sign for the courtyard area.

Next, using all sorts of smooth stones and rounded rocks, the students created a sensory walkway.

Also designed by the kids was a slate walkway. Intermingling with the slate and stone path will be artificial grass.

During the project, the kids learned about everything from geometric design to how to mix concrete, Selzer said.

“It’s a theme throughout the district to include students in projects like this,” said Sarah McBee, public relations coordinator for the district. “This was student-driven, shows a lot of initiative, and gave the students a choice to do what they wanted, to help them ‘own it.’ ”

Two dozen students and a few adults worked on making the walkway, Selzer said.

“It’s a sensory path and it’s supposed to be very calming,” Selzer said.

The next addition to the courtyard will be a four-feet-tall and 12-feet wide mosaic, also created by the students, who were given direction by artist Trainer.

“They worked hard on this and it’s really impressive,” Selzer said. “The design is from last year’s fourth-graders, and these guys just picked it up and ran with it. They were very diligent and they’ve done a tremendous job.” The multi-colored mosaic is made of glass and ceramic pieces and it has a name, “The Wave of Knowledge.” In one corner of the mosaic, the word “Mounts” pays homage to the district.

“It’s amazing what they’ve accomplished,” said Kristee Reichard, business manager for the school district. “You give the kids a project and they run with it.”