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Room with a View

Students at Shiloh Elementary School in Snellville, Ga., have this view as they eat lunch.

Students at Shiloh Elementary School in Snellville, Ga., have this view as they eat lunch.
—Courtesy of Vivian Stranahan, Shiloh Elementary School

Students can see the ocean from the cafeteria at Shiloh Elementary School in Snellville, Ga. A sailboat floats in the distance, a lighthouse illuminates a corner of the room, and an ice cream shop even beckons children in.

"It looks like you're looking to the ocean from the wharf," said Vivian Stranahan, the principal of the school. "It really envelops the whole cafeteria. Beautiful."

Thanks to a mural painted by artist Rhonda Storer, the cafeteria was transformed from a stark lunchroom to the Savannah harborside last summer.

For three years, the 850-student school planned and prepared to put up a mural that would honor Georgian roots. The school hired Ms. Storer, who took less than her usual fees for the job, Ms. Stranahan said.

"Mostly, what we were looking to do was really make the cafeteria warm and inviting, making it much more of a home or cafe environment, as opposed to an institutional cafeteria," she said.

Last July, Ms. Storer spent five days working on the mural. As summer school students passed by and gave suggestions, she incorporated their ideas into the painting.

The effects of the mural project have helped the school's efforts to cultivate a respectful atmosphere among its students, Ms. Stranahan said.

"It really just made everything very calm and very settled and very warm," she said. "It really made our cafeteria much more intimate."

"The kids really got to see the process," the principal added. "They got to see all the detail as it came across, so it was quite an educational process for them as well."

The project proved so successful that plans are under way for another mural, this time depicting the mountainous north Georgia landscape, to go up in the media center in January.

"It's going to incorporate a lot of books that are in our media center and ideas from our kids," Ms. Stranahan said.

—Olivia Doherty

Vol. 23, Issue 12, Page 3

Published in Print: November 19, 2003, as Take Note

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