Senior’s 20 time mural project merges schoolwork and passion

September 22, 2018 — by Aaria Thomas

A once empty and drab wall opposite the science wing is now home to a landscape of the Earth, ocean and space. Various shades of blue and brown have replaced the original beige tiles. Sea organisms dot the blue background, while fossils remain buried deep beneath the surface of the ground. An orange planet stands out brightly against the vast darkness of space.

This new addition to the science wing was created by senior Hannah Chang for a 20 Time Project in her Anatomy and Physiology class last semester. Chang continued to paint the mural throughout the summer and is set to finish it by the end of October.

20 Time is a project in which students use 20 percent of their class time to work on a project without instruction from a teacher. Science teacher Kristofer Orre, who is on special assignment helping other teachers in the district for the next two years, found that by assigning this project, students were encouraged to explore their passions and become more independent learners.

“I think sometimes there is a disconnect between how we foster learning in our classes and what learning is really like,” Orre said. “In school we as teachers often tell kids what to learn, why to learn and even how to learn it. The problem with this is that you’re not going to be a student forever, and when you’re done with school, it’s up to you to decide these things.”

He wanted his students to choose a project where the result would benefit other people. Students came up with ideas that raised awareness for social issues or designed experiments to solve problems relating to science. Similar to Chang, some students tapped into their creative side to make videos and documentaries or compose and mix music. Previous 20 Time projects include a documentary on autism and tests on plastics that would improve conditions in modern landfills.

Chang said that she was thinking about including art in her project but wasn’t sure how. The science department had been discussing plans for a new mural, so Orre made the suggestion of painting it for her project.

Creating a mural this big on a campus was not something Chang had any experience with. However, she was excited about the opportunity to do this new project. Her eagerness made it easier to pull the project together.

“My creativity flowers with the project because I usually envision my idea into a paper or the wall and I could see my idea on it,” Chang said. The mural flowed easily and Chang knew where everything would go.

With some input from the science department, Chang sketched out the mural’s design, doing much of the work in Orre’s class. Chang researched topics from eight of the science courses offered at Saratoga: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science, Marine Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, Astronomy and Environmental Science. Through her research, she learned more about the layers of the Earth and ocean, creatures from the sea and planets in space.

Chang’s project was not centered around one specific issue; rather, her goal was to showcase the different science classes offered at the school. She incorporated what she researched about the subjects into her mural to make it an accurate representation of science here.

“It absolutely blew us away with the level of detail she incorporated,” Orre said.  

Although Chang spearheaded the project, others have pitched in to help.

“My family went to pick out paints, colors, and tool brushes,” Chang said. “My friends also helped paint the first base coat and colors.”

Orre also guided Chang through the challenges of her project. He helped her contact principal Paul Robinson about doing the mural and manage the different ideas people had about what the mural should include.

According to Orre, the mural not only brightens the corridor but also provides an excellent visual of the scientific concepts that students explore in class.

Chang hopes that when she is finished, students will appreciate the mural and recognize all the concepts that are intertwined in one piece.

Chang is honored to be able to decorate a wall at the school. Not only did she learn more about the different types sciences, but she combined her learning with something she really enjoyed doing.

“She’s really going above and beyond what the project originally intended,” Orre said. “Chang is an exemplification of how this project allows students to tap into their own intrinsic motivation, in this case her love of art, to take on something bigger and more challenging than than they’ve ever done.”


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