Students are using various paints, rocks and beads to create intricate mosaic artwork at Highland Plaza United Methodist Preschool in Hixson.
The artwork will be auctioned at the school's StudioPendous fundraising event March 16 at 5:30 p.m. at Hixson United Methodist Church.
Proceeds will help complete the school's outdoor playscape learning environment and purchase art materials.
"Chattanooga is an outdoor kind of town," said preschool Director Vicky Flessner. "This event connects students with nature and helps design an awesome outdoor area."
The fundraiser highlights children's research and work done in the school's atelier. A live auction will feature creations by the children and include an Eric Carle-inspired piece. Two hundred vendors have donated to the silent auction, and there will be a children's market and raffle. Dinner will be catered by Carrabba's Italian Grill.
"The parents not only work on raising money, but also worked all summer long to construct the playground," said Flessner. "With funds raised at this year's StudioPendous, we want to install a sand digging area inspired by the Tennessee Aquarium and a twigs atelier outdoor art studio to tie it to the [Bluff View] Art District. We want to produce a nature-based art experience."
So far, the school has spent $36,000 on the playscape with plans to spend an additional $5,000. The playscape area is moving along rapidly with various scenes already constructed inspired by the city of Chattanooga.
Students can crawl into a cave-like structure inspired by Ruby Falls, climb onto a couple of rocking horses inspired by the Coolidge Park carousel, sit on a stationary animal sculpture inspired by the Coolidge Park fountain or play in a Chickamauga Lake-inspired area with pumps.
Above, a stream flows downhill representing the Tennessee River surrounded by rocks emulating McClellan Island. A rock patio walkway runs alongside it representing Rock City. Overlooking the stream is a small bridge as a miniature version of the Walnut Street Bridge, a landing signifying Point Park and a Chattanooga Nature Center area at the top of the hill. Children can play inside a Station House or hop on two slides built into the hill. A tire wall inspired by Lookout Mountain sits below for children to explore.
"The final element will be a Chattanooga Symphony-inspired outdoor musical exploration area," said Flessner. "The area will include rhythm instruments such as a wooden xylophone and a whale drum."
She said Highland Plaza UMC has started the process to become a certified Nature Exploration Classroom through the Arbor Day Foundation. The ADF is coming to Chattanooga to host a symposium at the preschool June 15-16.
The preschool's students will soon begin planting crops in container gardens. One garden will hold items to make salsa, including cilantro, bell peppers, onions and tomatoes. Another garden will hold herbal tea-making elements. The gardens will not only be a place of food for humans, but also for animals; children will continue putting feed out for squirrels, birds and chipmunks as well on stumps.
The final piece of the preschool's outdoor attraction is a nature trail being constructed this spring by Boy Scout Gage Taylor, a former student at Highland Plaza UMC Preschool.