Broadneck Elementary School has a unique tradition for third-graders. Each year, students participate in what’s known as a legacy project, an opportunity to make a lasting impact.
In 2018, the school enclosed what used to be an indoor courtyard-like area used as the school library, which created a corridor with two new walls centrally located inside the school. Stephanie Walsh, a Broadneck art teacher at the time, was immediately inspired.
“We had these massive blank walls with nothing on them,” Walsh said.
Walsh knew who she would reach out to — Gayle Mangan Kassal, a mural artist who worked on a past project with Walsh.
While discussions of installing a mural at Broadneck Elementary School began in the 2019-2020 school year, COVID-19 interrupted the planning until October 2021 when Walsh applied for funding with an Arts Council of Anne Arundel County grant. The grant was awarded and, with a Broadneck parent teacher organization contribution, a mural design for one of the two walls commenced in January of last year.
“I really wanted to focus on our mascot, which is the bee,” Walsh said. “[Bees are] just so important to the planet, and they are nature’s way of showing what teamwork and community can do.”
Where there are bees, there are flowers and, for Mangan Kassal, relevant symbolism.
“The garden flourishes with the help of the bees working together as a community surrounded by the Magothy River and the Chesapeake Bay,” Mangan Kassal explained.
After the vision had been cast, 274 third-graders, along with fourth-graders who missed out the prior year due to the pandemic, met in March 2022 to leave their legacy. Creative juices inspired students with ideas, teaching them it’s OK to make changes. Students also learned about making mistakes.
“There are never really mistakes,” Mangan Kassal said. “Sometimes we just want to change it or work with something else … I think they also learned you don’t have to be exact and sometimes you just got to roll with it.”
Or, as Mangan Kassal shared, “like little life lessons all the way through.”
Installing the first wall in January inspired a vision for the remaining wall — and a second legacy. Another grant was awarded, courtesy of Maryland State Arts Council, which allowed the next batch of 152 third-graders to begin their legacy tradition, as well as their spin on the second wall.
“They wanted a boat, they wanted a pirate … [they] wanted someone reading,” Mangan Kassal said.
Keeping to the bee concept, the second wall shows caricatures of bees having an adventure on a boat that’s a book. Framing the bottom of both walls are book pages that lead the eye to the entrance of the library. The concept was then pulled together by adding a hive and some sun.
“The sunshine comes out of the library [door] saying this is where great ideas are,” Mangan Kassal said. “This is our hive, and this is how it all comes together. Read. Learn. Grow together. The whole thing just made sense finally.”
Walsh’s original vision was passed down to her successor, Jaclyn Cockcroft, who noticed students were not only learning about themselves through the value of art but also about working with others on a project that requires teamwork.
“Collaboration is a very big part,” Cockcroft said. “In the art room, it’s very individualized.”
This school year was kicked off with an unveiling of the mural and a small ceremony, earmarking a legacy for more than 425 students.
“They have a legacy,” Mangan Kassal said, “… that stays for generations to come and hopefully inspires other students.”
For more details, visit www.gaylemangankassal.com/educational.