New Brunswick

Students at Sussex Elementary School promote diversity with new mural

Even if you're a little kid, you can have a big impact, according to Bonny Hill, the artist behind a new mural at Sussex Elementary School that celebrates diversity and inclusion.

'Don't doubt that one group of people can change the world'

Artist and former teacher Bonny Hill designed this mural to send a message about diversity and inclusion at Sussex Elementary School. (Bonny Hill/Submitted)

Even if you're a little kid, you can have a big impact, according to Bonny Hill, the artist behind a new mural at Sussex Elementary School, which celebrates diversity and inclusion.

"Don't doubt that one group of people can change the world," said the former middle and high school teacher.

The mural, found on the exterior of the elementary school, is about 16 feet wide and just over 16 feet high. 

It depicts a group of children playing with a colourful parachute. 

The mural was aimed at helping students learn more about diversity and inclusion. (Sarah Waddell, Submitted)

"They're playing that game where you fill a parachute with colourful balls and then you work together to throw those balls up as high as you can in the air," she said.

The word diversity is also spelled out on the mural, along with other words that represent diversity, such as age, talents and intellect. 

New mural celebrates diversity at Sussex Elementary School

5 months ago
More than 400 students in kindergarten to Grade 5 learned about diversity and inclusion by helping create a new mural this past school year, which is featured outside Sussex Elementary School. 0:15

"It's … sending a message to kids, just to treat everyone kindly and equally regardless of what grade you're in, what street you live on or how tall you are or how you can shoot a basketball or what your parents do. Where you came from or how many friends you have."  

Students from kindergarten to Grade 5 took part in the mural project this year. (Sarah Waddell/Submitted)

The project, which was a two-year initiative by staff at the school, was originally created as a way to welcome newcomers to the school and the town.

"It's being able to show that we're all part of this picture of working together and being a team," said Raya Khedheri, the school's vice-principal.

"Children are understanding it's more than just themselves, there's a whole big world out there."

The mural was created after the school applied for a provincial grant with the New Brunswick Multicultural Council and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development

The beginning stages of the diversity mural. (Sarah Waddell/Submitted)

Each class from kindergarten to Grade 5 painted different pieces of a large puzzle that went onto the mural, including students learning from home during the pandemic. Because all the paper's shapes and colours were different, students had no idea what the finished product would look like.

"I think it almost helped build the excitement of it all," Sarah Waddell, the school's guidance counsellor. "As they saw their colours coming together it kind of made them wonder more and more."

Hundreds of students stood in a field to watch the big reveal of the mural. (Sarah Waddell/Submitted)

Students at the school were also able to take part in the project's creation over the past few months. Since the mural was put up, she said students have been gazing at the mural in awe. 

"It's been really cool to watch them almost, stand in awe … they were so proud to say, 'That's the piece we did,'" Waddell said.

Classes were also able to guess what the mural might look like. Some students guessed a large butterfly, while others guessed an underwater scene, camouflage, a hot air balloon.

The mural being revealed at Sussex Elementary School. (Sarah Waddell/Submitted)

"When they saw the final product together and knowing they had been a part of it, that was part of their excitement with the whole project," said Khedheri.

The finished work was unveiled to about 525 students and staff last week, the first time the school community was able to gather at a safe distance in the school field.

"If everyone does their little bit, which everyone did beautifully, then when you put it all together it's quite tremendous," Hill said.

With files from Information Morning Saint John