Saco Middle School student Bailey Camire arranges stones in a mosaic at the school entrance on a recent Wednesday. Several students are taking part in art projects designed to perk up the area near the front of the building. Tammy Wells Photo

SACO — How many trips have students taken ferrying sod and dirt to a pile about a football field away from the main entrance at Saco Middle School?

Let’s just say a lot of trips, probably dozens.

But those sixth graders are enthusiastic as well as creative youngsters, and it was all part of an art project to help transform an area near the front doors of the school into a pleasing appealing, inviting place to be.

Saco Middle School students work on an art project near the school entrance on a recent Wednesday. The mosaic will feature the SMS logo and bobcat paw prints. Tammy Wells Photo

They weren’t alone — students from other classes were doing their own art project, creating a stone mosaic in a place tucked up to a school wall, where years of rain landing on a garden area from the school’s roof had created a bit of a mess.

On a recent Wednesday, SMS students from the Gifted and Talented program as well as some sixth graders worked on their projects.

Art teacher Alison Crofton-MacDonald said after the sixth-grade students removed the grass and dirt, six inches of stone was put down and smoothed out, and within a week or so, some pea-sized stones were to be delivered. Then, there will be mosaic pavers installed — some 70 have been created by students — and will be interspersed with blank pavers, to balance the effect and allow the students’ work stand out.

Some mosaic pavers the sixth-grade students created included themes like peace signs, a guitar, and a yellow figure that looked remarkably like Tweety Bird from the Loony Tunes, Merry Melodies cartoon series of the mid 1940s to the 1960s — but may have been a more modern popular figure.

Saco Middle School sixth grade student Will McNaughton shows the mosaic of a guitar he created for a patio project at the front of the school. About 70 student mosaics will be included. Tammy Wells Photo

The mosaic at the entrance doors includes the letters SMS and three bobcat pawprints — the cat is the school’s logo — in dark stones, with white pebbles artfully arranged in designs created to emphasize the logo and pawprints.

Tess Frager was among those carefully placing white stones.

“I like it a lot,” she said of the project as she arranged the stones in a swirl design between the bobcat pawprints.

Once the stones are all placed in the concrete base, the students will add a dusting of dry concrete mix over the entire project and then spray it well with water, Crofton-MacDonald explained, and let it set.

The paver mosaics for the patio-like area were created by gluing glass pieces to paper in designs chosen by the artist, then placing it in a tin, pouring concrete on it and then scraping off the paper once it dried, said student Will McNaughton, who chose to create a red guitar design.

Why a guitar, and why red? Easy answer — he plays one, and it happens to be red.

A few of the 70 sixth grade students’ mosaic pieces that will be included in a patio area at the front of Saco Middle School. Tammy Wells Photo

“It will be cool to come back and see it” once the project is complete, McNaughton said.

Crofton-MacDonald said it took five classes of sixth graders four days to dig out the turf and deposit it across the field to the edge of the property. She said the students “can’t wait” to lay the mosaic pavers.

A garden is in the mix too, in a sunny spot near the pavers — science teacher Lindsay Wirsing and her students recently planted flowers, said Crofton-MacDonald, who added the school’s Parent Teacher Organization has been supportive, and reached out to parents, who supplied the plants. Saco Steam provided financial help for the mosaic projects, she said.

Crofton-MacDonald said the outside projects have been good for students.

A garden is part of the effort to help beautify the front of Saco Middle School. Science teacher Lindsay Wirsing and her students planted flowers on a recent day. Courtesy Photo

“Last spring, it was paper and pencil,” during the height of the pandemic, when classes were conducted fully remote. This year, students are in the sunshine, creating a new look for the school entrance that will be around for years to come.

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