First they have to get used to touching the glass, learning that they can’t break it and they won’t cut their hands.
Then the questions start flying with the most frequent one being: “When is it done?”
Working with more than 460 kindergarten, first- and second-grade students at Deer Park Elementary School, retired teacher and glass artist Monte Moore is making stained glass panels to cover a tall arched window at the school.
“My daughter Hattie is in second grade here, so it was natural for me to volunteer here,” Moore said while putting out glass pieces and glue for a small group of students last week.
When the eight stained glass panels are completed they will cover a 6-by-6 foot window above the front entrance to the school.
The design is loosely based on Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh’s painting “The Starry Night.”
“The students studied van Gogh and knew about the painting and helped pick the motif,” Moore said. Moore used the van Gogh painting as inspiration to create a big wavy design in yellow and blue hues, like swirling water intertwined with wheat fields, below a big yellow sun.
Moore copied the design on to paper and created metal frames to hold the glass pieces in place. The students get to glue square, colored glass pieces, about the size of a quarter, on to the paper backing. Then, when one frame is full, Moore does the grouting, locking the glass pieces in place.
“We use glue that dries clear so you can’t see it once it’s set,” Moore said.
The school’s 20 teachers, three janitors and four cooks are also part of the project.
The students join Moore in groups of three or four and work on the glass panels bit by bit.
On a recent Friday, Moore was working with a group of second-graders.
“I like it because it’s really crafty,” said Maci Holderby, 7, while picking her glass pieces.
Moore’s daughter Hattie Moore, 7, said it is fun to follow the design and put the glass pieces where they belong.
“And it’s fun to watch the glue squeeze out,” she said, making everyone giggle.
Hunter Alexander, 7, was also helping out.
“It looks really cool,” he said, assessing the almost finished glass panel.
Moore, who has done similar projects at M.E.A.D. alternative high school and at Glover Middle School, said the main reason he volunteers to do these projects is simple.
“The kids don’t get enough art,” Moore said. “We make room for technology, but we don’t balance it with art.” Moore, who taught special education for 20 years and art for 10 years in local schools, said he always incorporated art in his teaching.
“But it’s really tough for the classroom teachers to do that,” Moore said. “There is so much they have to take care of.”
Moore began the project in May and hopes to have it finished by Christmas. He’s donating his time and the materials.
“I tell the kids that they may have kids that will go to school here,” Moore said, “and by then the stained glass window will still be here.”
The students take turns pressing their glass pieces into place, and one piece at the time they fill the frame.
“I think we can be done by Christmas,” Maci said, confidently.