With Covid-19 bringing changes to teaching as we know it, Jamaal Bonnette, an art teacher at Bridge Boston Charter School in Roxbury, has been meeting the challenge of keeping kids engaged through virtual classes — a tall task for anyone. So, when a building manager suggested he convert a storage container on campus into a mural art project, Bonnette jumped at the chance.
“I’m a hands-on teacher, and they were familiar with me doing art outdoors in the past, so this was right up my alley,” said Bonnette.
Over the last several weeks, Bonnette worked together with a handful of 8th grade students to design and paint a mural on one of the storage pods that had been brought in to store excess desks in anticipation of a switch to hybrid learning. Painting outside in a safe environment gave the kids a needed outlet and a goal-oriented project they could be proud of, he explained.
“It was a long, difficult six weeks trying to teach remotely. This project gave them some motivation and made their engagement better, and it’s so special that I was able to share the experience with them.”
Jaleese Young, a 13-year-old from Dorchester, submitted the art design that was ultimately chosen by Bonnette for the mural: a background of vertical and horizontal stripes with a pair of trophies and a jaguar— the school’s mascot — in the center.
“The mural represents a lot of what we students have been through at Bridge,” said Young, who explained that the trophies paid tribute to the school’s basketball and step teams, which each won their respective championships last year. “I knew if I wanted it to pop, it had to have stripes. I really wanted to show people my creativity.”
Principal Will Carter said the mural reinforces the core “Jaguar values”— joy, achievement, generosity, unity, acceptance, and resilience.
“It was a great way to build Bridge pride, and do so in a safe way,” he said. “And on top of that, it’s a nice way of beautifying the community.”
Added Young: “This is something I can say I did. It’s about being able to set a goal and accomplish it.”