by JEFF DILLON

Thinking positively by Sacred Heart School in North East Valley, Dunedin, produced a top result with the school winning the primary school section of the “Keep New Zealand Beautiful” Wall Worthy mural competition for the whole of New Zealand. In doing so, it became the first primary school in Otago ever to win the national competition.

The idea of entering the competition began to develop several months ago after an ad sparked initial interest. Parent Emmeline Kendrick became the enthusiastic co-ordinator for the project and soon parents and children were being urged to consider what they thought should be included in the mural design.

Teacher aide and local artist Ruan Barton was co-opted to provide her skills bringing the varied ideas and suggestions together into a meaningful creation. That then led to a concept drawing being produced which embodied and celebrated the nature of the school as well as the local environment of North East Valley.

The image was sent to the Keep New Zealand Beautiful competition organisers and a decision awaited without any real expectation of winning. But to the delight of the school and the community the concept drawing won their section.

With the win came the benefits of paint vouchers from Resene Paints and t-shirts and other goodies. With the win also came problems. The win was in March and winter conditions were fast approaching and the wall was in a very shady part of the grounds.

The manager from the Dunedin branch of Resene provided advice and assistance and the enthusiastic band began the operation. The aim was to meet the deadline of having the mural completed before the beginning of term four. Unfortunately this year’s winter was wetter than usual and literally put a dampener on progress.

Ingenious methods were developed to overcome these problems such as senior pupils covering tennis rackets with cardboard and fanning fresh paint to make it dry faster as well as carefully covering newly painted areas with plastic bags in case of rain. Senior pupils also helped Mrs Barton with painting some parts.

Despite all the difficulties a work of art began to appear on the wall until its final version could be celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony recently in the first week of the fourth term before delighted parents, children and guests from Keep Dunedin Beautiful and a representative from Resene Paints.

Principal Paul Richardson explained the symbolism of the various elements in the mural and project co-ordinator Mrs Kendrick told of the trials and tribulations and joys along the way.

The local maunga (Mount Cargill) with its fog feature strongly in the top section of the mural as well as the local awa (Lindsay Creek) which flows down the valley. Also depicted are flora and fauna that are special to New Zealand (e.g. ferns, pohutukawa)

A dominant taniwha becomes a symbol of a guardian of the school as a special place of learning while also bringing a sense of magic and mystery.

Games and activities associated with the local Chingford Park are depicted on the mural in the form of disc golf, soccer and the picnic basket.

Children are seen paddling a waka down the stream with the paddles labelled Respect, Justice, Humanity — which are key values of the school.

In the branches of a tree sit a kea and a kereru which are also the names chosen for the junior and senior learning areas of the school, which has a roll of 38 pupils. So to win this national competition is a fantastic result for this school community.

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