Fourth-graders Peyton Cogley, left, and Bayleigh Perry chat while painting a wildlife mural for the double-sided bus lane barriers at Meroby Elementary School in Mexico on Sept. 15. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times Buy this Photo

MEXICO — Fourth-graders attending classes at Meroby Elementary School are painting a wildlife mural on the double-sided bus lane barriers, a project designed by teacher Brent Bachelder.

Mr. Brent, as he’s known by his art students, taped numbers at least 6 feet apart at the top of each barrier so students can be distant from teach other and don’t have to wear masks.

“Because they’re far enough apart, they’re not goofing around or going stir crazy,” Bachelder said. “They have a stronger work ethic than I thought they would.”

Each student claimed a favorite area to paint.

Peyton Cogley chose a section that was already started. “I like painting, and being away from my brother,” she said.

Bayleigh Perry, who also likes artwork, chose to paint a deer. “I like deers,” she said. “I’ve never been hunting before and my dad is taking me this year.”

Bachelder said originally it was going to be a project for the entire school but the COVID-19 pandemic changed that.

“The nice thing is we are working outside and if separated enough, we can take off our masks while we paint,” he said.

River Valley Rising, a project of River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition working to address youth substance use disorder, primed the barriers during the summer.

Meroby Elementary School art teacher Brent Bachelder looks over the work of his fourth-grade students painting a mural on bus lane barriers at the Mexico school on Sept. 15. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times Buy this Photo

Other preparations, he said, included searching the internet for more than 70 local animals and plants, making transparencies, projecting them onto cardboard, cutting out the cardboard and putting them up like a puzzle and into a repeating pattern.

“It will be fun to show the kids how, step by step, you create a huge mural, something I have been doing for over 31 years,” Bachelder said.

This project will also teach teamwork, patience, attention to detail, diligence and commitment to finishing before snow flies. “We will be encouraging staff to come and assist us when their time allows, too,” he said.

Of his young painters, Bachelder said, “Seeing them actually come out, sit down, stay in their space and actually work is amazing.”

Fourth grade students at Meroby Elementary School in Mexico paint bus lane barriers designed with a wildlife theme Sept. 15. The art project was developed by teacher Brent Bachelder. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times Buy this Photo

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