Crooked River Elementary teacher spearheads a project to decorate nearby fences with mustang figures

PHOTO COURTESY OF KAREN BRYANT  - Crooked River Elementary second-grade students Jessica Mapes, left, Khasidy Left Hand and Luam Griffin paint their wooden mustang figures during a class art lesson.

In the next couple of weeks, the chain-link fences near Crooked River Elementary will be alive with color when 600-plus wooden mustang horse figures go up.

The project involves all CRE students as well as middle school woodshop students, and teachers are using it to teach an art lesson and tying it up nicely with the AVID theme.

CRE kindergarten teacher Ashley Smith got the idea to decorate the fences surrounding her school when she was driving through Sisters and saw colorful wooden fish decorating the chain-link fences along the highway near Sisters Elementary School.

"I was thinking it'd be really nice for our school to have something similar to that," Smith said, thinking of the school's mustang mascot and AVID.

Elementary students have been using Advancement Via Individual Determination strategies this school year.

"I thought it'd be really cool to tie in with AVID," Smith said. "I was thinking about how cool it would be for all of the kids to have something like 'Racing toward our future,' where all the kids could paint a horse, and we could tie in their future."

So, she shared her idea with her family and co-workers, and everyone seemed to like the idea.

"I wanted to make it a little more cheery and bright for the kids when they come in and for the families, too, so they feel more welcome," Smith said. "Having kid art around is a really positive impact on the kids, and they want to be here."

Her in-laws, Doug and Carol Smith, donated the plywood.

She contacted Crook County Middle School woodshop teacher Jim Crouch, and he assigned his students the job of cutting out 650 mustangs, each measuring about 1 foot wide by 8 inches tall.

"They were super-fast about it. It only took them a few months to get them all cut out," she said.

Smith and her husband purchased bright red, yellow and blue paint and a bunch of paint brushes.

 - The colorful mustangs will decorate the fences near the Crooked River Elementary front parking lot.She delivered the mustangs to all CRE teachers and asked them to have each student paint one horse.

"The kids are learning about mixing colors, and they're using it as an art project so they can learn about color mixing and making different colors," Smith said.

Once the students have painted the mustangs, Smith will spray them with a clear sealer before fastening them to the fences with zip ties. She hopes to hang them on the fences on either side of the CRE parking lot during the last week of school.

"My plan is to have the fifth graders' horses going toward the middle school, which is symbolic for them going toward the middle school," Smith said, adding that they plan to incorporate a sign that says "Racing toward our future."

She plans to keep the mustangs on the fences for as long as they'll last.

Smith says the students are excited about the mustang project.

"I think all the kids are looking at it positively just because they feel like they have something they have ownership over, and they can contribute to the school. They're excited to see them all hanging up when the project is finished," she said. "I'm really excited for them all to have something special that they can associate with school."

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