What began as an idea a little more than a year ago became a reality Wednesday as the Community Pride Mosaic was given to the community of Knob Noster as a gift from the school district.
The 8-foot by 8-foot ceramic tile mosaic, located at the His House of Bread Community Welcome Center in Knob Noster, was made possible when the school received a Good Ideas Grant from the Federally Impacted Schools Educational Foundation.
“We were only one of four schools in the United States to receive the grant last year,” said April Williams, Director of the STE+AM Grant for the Knob Noster School District. “When we were notified that we had received the grant we were somewhat overwhelmed by all of the good ideas we were presented with.
“We knew we wanted to tell the story and capture the spirit of Knob Noster, the school and Whiteman Air Force Base in a way that would convey our history and tell the story of how we collaborate as a community,” Williams added. “It was also important to us that we utilize the science, technology, engineering, art and math concepts we are using through the STE+AM grant.”
The students needed to use their engineering skills to design a work that would fit the space they were given as well as develop a way to display the artwork at the community center owned by Sandy and George Cromer.
“Originally we had considered the public library as a site but it would not work there,” Williams said. “When the Cromer’s heard about the project they immediately offered the space at the Community Welcome Center, which made perfect sense for all the groups involved.”
Williams said most of the planning for the project as well as the interviews with members of the community and the execution of the piece itself was student-driven.
“Students in Leesha Dunkeson’s middle school art classes and Halley Bridges’ high school art III and IV classes worked to bring the project to life,” Williams said. “The students were very fortunate in some of the opportunities they were given in the research of the mosaic.
They had the opportunity to meet with Whiteman Base historian Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets IV, commander of the 509th Bomb Wing, and were permitted to tour Oscar I, the underground missile silo on base that was decommissioned after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
“The opportunity to tour Oscar doesn’t come along every day,” Williams said. “They were also fortunate to speak to other members of the community and the base to piece together the story of our history and community.”
A second way to involve the community came with the center circle of the mosaic.
The students drew concept sketches for the center design, which were then voted on by community members who ultimately chose the images that became the center tiles.
“Once I spoke to last year’s Art III students about the project they all became very excited and wanted to be a part of this,” Bridges said. “They were so excited that they all took Art IV this year.
“These six students worked very hard on the project and they left their mark in a very big way,” she added.
Dunkeson also had six junior high students who did the majority of the work, but because she had larger numbers in her classes, numerous other students took part.
“It was a very impactful project for the students,” Dunkeson said. “They heard so many firsthand accounts and stories about the history of the community that meant something to them.
“They all worked together as one,” she added. “It took a lot of teamwork to accomplish this and I am very proud of all of the students and their efforts.”
Williams is also proud of the accomplishments of the students and will have the opportunity to tell others of the success of the project when she and Superintendent Dr. Jerrod Wheeler present a video on the making of the project at the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools Conference in Washington, D.C., in March.
“I love the way the piece melds together; it is such a unified piece,” Williams said. “I think it is a beautiful representation of the history of the school, the base and the community that shows the connection between a global workforce and a small agricultural community and the dedication of both of these groups to the children of Knob Noster.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484