04/29/2021 | Community gatherings to fund Kiln to Enrich Art program

Melissa Reid, an art teacher at Buckingham elementary school, is pictured with the new oven at the new school. Submitted photo

BERLIN – Students at Buckingham Elementary School will soon have access to an oven thanks to the efforts of the school’s PTA.

After a fundraising effort led by PTA last year, Buckingham Elementary School has now added an oven to its art program. The installation of the oven, purchased mainly with donations from the Berlin Arts and Entertainment Committee and the Ocean City-Berlin Optimists Club, is being finalized. Melissa Reid, the school’s art teacher, says the kiln will give kids the chance to use real pottery.

“This is going to give the kids a chance to express themselves,” said Reid.

In the past, Reid has given children air-dried clay for projects. While students appreciate the ability to shape clay, it cannot be fired and their designs are not very durable. When the school worked with an artist in residence on a tile mural a few years ago, Reid realized how beneficial an oven could be. Although the children created pieces for the mural, these pieces had to be taken to the kiln at the Berlin Middle School so that they could be fired and installed on the school wall. Aside from the downsides, Reid said the experience showed kids how much more can be done with baking clay.

“It really gave the kids an appreciation for real pottery clay, what it can do,” Reid said.

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The Buckingham PTA, which tries to support the school and its programs as best it can, has devised a plan to raise $ 6,000 to buy an oven. Although the pandemic halted efforts, the PTA was able to raise funds through donations from the Berlin Arts and Entertainment Committee and the Optimists Club.

Reid said the pandemic has actually highlighted the value of the oven, as it will allow children to explore art, something that brought comfort and self-expression to many during a time of high technology.

“It’s so tactile,” she said.

Although it starts out as what looks like a piece of mud, after being shaped and fired, the clay becomes something completely different.

“It’s so transformed,” Reid said. “It’s wonderful for the kids to see this change.

Jeff Smith, president of the Buckingham PTA, said the organization was happy to help. In addition to supporting stand-alone projects like this, the PTA also works on annual efforts. The group is raising funds to help purchase Field Day shirts for students and fundraising for initiatives during Teacher Appreciation Week.

“We have a small but active PTA,” he said.

Smith added that the group, which also advocates on behalf of parents when they have concerns, has welcomed new members.

“PTA works best when it comes to a collective voice,” he said. “The more people there are, the stronger the PTA can be.”

Kayleen C. Rice

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