Art mural draws students at Butler Elementary

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By Tony White

Three Butler Elementary fifth grade students are working on an art project that will connect with the whole school.


Dax Bradshaw, Caitlyn Kissler and Dayjah Urbina have teamed up in Karen Morales’ art class to design and create a mural, which will serve as the backdrop in a large display case by the gymnasium that showcases student art projects. Other kids in Morales’ art class will also add their painting touches to the mural, which has splashes of blue and pink over a yellow background. The mural’s focal point is an eagle with outstretched wings, inspired by the school’s mascot.

Caitlyn Kissler said she loved collaborating with the other two students and getting more ideas flowing.

“We get to work together and combine our imaginations,” Caitlyn Kissler said.

Dax Bradshaw said sharing ideas with the other two students helped him find inspiration.

“It’s just something to do after class to help you with your imagination and create different things,” Dax Bradshaw said.

His favorite part of the project was its large format, Dax Bradshaw said. He said he has never drawn such a big eagle.

“I like creating different things and trying new things,” Dax Bradshaw said.

The three students were chosen to do the mural after they were identified as “gifted and special artists” after taking part in a statewide Colorado gifted and talented test, which gauged their creative skills. School district officials reviewed the test. It also is applied to other subjects, including math and science. It establishes a long-term study plan for students, which is expected to continue through high school. 

Morales said the three students are given time during the school day, twice a week, to work exclusively on projects with her, something most students don’t have the option to do.

“I thinks it unique having this special time with them outside of their classroom with their classmates. Working with three students with one teacher is wonderful. It’s just been a really fun experience,”  Morales said.

The three students agreed on a general concept for the mural, created their own sketches and then voted on the final composition for the school’s first kid-driven mural project.

“This is different in that the students are driving it. They get to work more like an artist,” Morales said.

The three students have become close friends since working on the mural. Dax Bradshaw and Caitlyn Kissler have been schoolmates since preschool, while Dayjah Urbina came to the school last year. Caitlyn Kissler’s sisters inspired her to take up drawing, which she said she likes. She said she draws at home, especially chickens. She has 38 chickens on her farm. She created a chicken out of the shape of an oval when taking the gifted and talented test.

Dayjah Urbina previously made a flying pig paper mache piece and sketched a detailed floating eye, her friends said. It was Dayjah Urbina’s drawing that was chosen for the mural and Dax Bradshaw said the group followed her lead.

“She definitely helped on the colors and she did great on the drawing. We just mixed the paint and listened to her,” Dax Bradshaw said with a tinge of sarcasm.

The team of three pre-mixed paint colors for when the other student came in to paint the mural. Dax said the first batch of blue was too dark and had to be redone a couple times. This was after it took hours to sketch ideas for the mural, gather the supplies and coordinate with his two other creative partners.

“I just wanted to start painting,” Dax Bradshaw said.

Yhe mural should be finished around March 1, Morales said. The three students hope to work together on future projects, which could likely happen as they continue with gifted and talented classes for the next several years.

Morales said these student-driven projects prepare her students to be innovative and agile thinkers for the diverse career routes they may pursue later in life.

“They might get an idea here in art class and maybe that’s what they invent or build a business off of. I want them to be thinking and solving problems. I see my role as preparing my students for a future that we don’t even is coming yet,” Morales said.