BUCKSPORT — Sixth-graders at the Bucksport Middle School were fourth-graders waiting to start the transition to middle school when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020.
Thanks to work the students did this year, writing and drawing about their experiences as well as interviewing local people whose livelihoods were affected by the pandemic, the school has a new, permanent mural, called “History in the Making.”
Bucksport Middle School Principal Todd West invited students, parents and community members to listen to the students’ stories and see the mural unveiling on Nov. 10. Also participating were visiting artists Laurie Downey and Gretchen Berg, who run The Local Stories Project. The work was funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission.
Because of the pandemic, social distancing requirements and remote learning, the students missed out on getting to fully explore their new school once they became fifth-graders in the fall of 2020.
“Some of you, didn’t even know where the gym was in April,” West recalled.
“It’s one of those projects where every single sixth-grader was involved,” he added.
Downey and Berg took the information the students provided and turned it into a mural.
The students drew their pandemic experiences and added captions.
“No money” and “lots of cleaning” as well as “no lunch break” adorned one creation.
The students also created self-portraits.
One student drew himself with three hypodermic needles stuck in his arm.
“I thought it was a really important thing to make because it could tell people in future years how bad the pandemic really was,” said student Brody Simpson.
Another student, Brianna Rich, said “it was kind of difficult in a way. There’s so much stuff we didn’t know about. I couldn’t see my grandfather who was in the hospital.”
Art teacher Hannah Bailey said she was surprised at how seriously the students took the project.
“Their artwork blossomed,” she said.
In doing the project, the school invited a number of people to speak with the sixth-graders this year about how the pandemic affected their industries. They included Principal West, Bucksport Hannaford Store Manager Tom McGown, Ellsworth American Managing Editor Cyndi Wood, Karen Snow, a registered nurse at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, Mariah Cassidy, a veterinary technician at Penobscot Veterinary Services, Abbie Lee, a cosmetologist at Bombshell Beauty and Spa, middle school technology teacher Allison Braley and Abigail Foster, a registered nurse for the Veterans Health Administration and a Regional School Unit 25 (RSU 25) School Board member.