Photo Credit: Maya Sheehan
The students and staff of Dakota Ridge were recently met with an emboldened addition to the school that came as a surprise to many. However, most don’t know where the two murals bearing our unique chant came from, or why they were installed. They brought a lot of questions, and people were slowing or stopping in the halls on the way to class to take in the artwork.
These two murals can be credited to three IB Dakota Ridge students, Audrey Zur,(11), Angelina Reneau (11), and Alyssa Sheehan (12). These three students used applicable creative skills obtained in the International Baccalaureate program and implemented them to create a CAS project that would brighten the halls of the schools.
“We chose to do a mural because we wanted to make sure that everyone would be able to see the positive message we were trying to spread. It is meaningful because it promotes the message that everyone is in high school together,” Zur said.
CAS, which stands for Creativity, Activity, Service, is one of the requirements necessary to receive an IB diploma. There is a lot of room to be individualistic within the CAS project guidelines. However, it requires a range of experiences and a series of purposeful activities to be completed with significant outcomes. These activities aren’t specific, and can vary from person to person, but need to include personal challenge, thoughtful consideration, planning, a review process, reflection, and personal learning. CAS also challenges students to bring in aspects of global engagement and diversity to their projects to encourage international unity and depth of understanding.
For Zur, Sheehan, and Reneau, this meant combining multiple and different creativity and thinking skills to come up with an idea for a finished product that would fulfill these requirements. “Creativity: we had to come up with design, Activity: physically making and painting it, and Service: bringing more color and positivity to our school hallways by giving the murals to the school. Also, we implemented global engagement by writing “you are loved” in 24 different languages on the wings of the eagle,” Sheehan said. But this wasn’t just a means to an end to get the project done for credit–the girls also wanted to “…make something nice for the school that someone could look at and smile,” Reneau said.
This brought the challenge of a planning process that would bring color and creativity to the school, but also keep everyone equally involved. The solution was a school-wide survey to combine the ideas of students and have equal representation within the mural. This survey helped narrow ideas and gave other students a voice that helped tie the project back into the themes the students were conveying in their artwork through the use of the DRHS chant. “This was part of our goal to unify Dakota Ridge to show that while we are diverse, we have Dakota Ridge as something that relates us to one another. Specifically, IB is a globally-minded program; therefore, we wanted to give representation to some of the diversity that Dakota Ridge has,” Zur said.
The staff reactions to the mural captured the message the students were hoping to achieve. “I love the murals. The coloring and messages are outstanding. These students have really captured the unique chant our student body uses during competitions and at graduation. I believe this messaging creates unity among our student body as it is unique only to Dakota Ridge,” Dr. Jim Jelinek, principal at Dakota Ridge, said. He had been meeting with the students prior to seeing the mural for permission and approval to create and hang them in the school, and when he finally saw them, reacted with the utmost enthusiasm.
Micah Snider, art teacher at Dakota Ridge, was impressed. “WOW! They did such a great job planning and executing this project,” Snider said. “The murals are vibrant and refer to an energetic cheer that describes a positive aspect of our school’s spirit. They contribute to our school environment and add a sense of pride. It’s hard not to smile and imagine students chanting ‘Who we be’ while passing under them.”