TAMPA – The morning ritual at Buchanan Middle School starts shortly after the last student steps off the bus. Once seated in their homerooms, the buzz from the closed circuit televisions bring classes the morning announcements.
“Good morning, Buchanan,” shouts principal Scott Hilgenberg, as he does every day. So much so that many a student does a fairly good imitation.
And for the longest time, the morning shout was delivered from behind a plain brown podium. That is, until art teacher Sabrina Pingel decided to brighten up Buchanan’s mornings.
Pingel got her art class involved. It started off modestly, just trying to come up with a design for the podium, and it grew from there. Buchanan students Zoe Walters and Christina Sia took charge after the painting started and began to turn the podium into something special.
Meanwhile, other Buchanan teachers took notice. Soon, teachers were putting in their own requests for specialized podiums.
Each podium is its own piece of art. Students first sand the podium, and after a coat of primer, they draw their designs on it in pencil, then the painting begins. They come to the art room on their time – and sometimes stay late.
Pingel, who majored in art history at the University of South Florida, said that the students get to come up with their own designs.
“We were approached to decorate the podium for the principal,” Pingel said. “We finished it and liked how it turned out and now a lot of teachers are asking us to help with theirs. The kids have a great time and Christina and Zoe have really come through.”
She said that the kids get to do things their own way with just a little supervision.
“I just tell them to do what they want,” Pingel said. “I just tell them to run wild.”
They are now working on a podium that stresses world history. Zoe said that it would encompass everything from the Mayan calendar to ancient Egypt and China. It all comes from the mind, she said.
“Art was always just a hobby,” Zoe said. “Some of the teachers are asking us to do the same thing for them because the podium we did for the morning announcements was so popular. We do all the work. There are only about five of us, but it has been a lot of fun.”
Zoe said that she is also learning other skills, such as sanding and the preparation it takes to do a major project.
The podium project isn’t the only thing that Pingel’s art class does. They were a big part of the Buchanan Empty Bowls project where they made clay pots for charity that were then given to guests at a dinner.
Buchanan Middle School is at 1001 W. Bearss Ave. in Tampa. For information, call (813) 975-7600.