Rock solid: Relay Elementary’s creative garden promotes unity at new building

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Relay Elementary students all painted rocks for a colorful rock garden located outside the school’s library.

Moments after a ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the new Relay Elementary building, students eagerly waited near the school’s front office.

They were ready, willing, and able to show guests their school, the fourth Relay Elementary building in school history. But they would have to wait a few minutes longer. Guests were picking up markers and carefully inscribing friendly messages on tiny rocks.

Ribbon-cutting attendees were able to add to a brightly-colored art project. A colorful rock garden is located outside, behind the school’s media center. Each Relay student designed a rock for the garden, which is positioned below a sign that says, “One Relay for All.”

School counselor Denise Campbell led the project. And the students are clearly proud of it. When they visit the garden, the try to find their rock and enjoy examining the hundreds of others.

“We wanted our students to contribute to the beauty of the campus in a meaningful way,” Campbell said. “We centered our focus around the book ‘Only One You,’ which emphasizes the uniqueness of each person. We used this inspiration to have students paint their own personalized rock to represent their creativity and uniqueness.”

The school motto is “Building Community by honoring traditions.” Relay wanted a project that would bring the motto to life.

“As the school counselor, I wanted to provide an experience that the children would always remember about unity,” she said. “We have almost 200 students who merged with us from Halethorpe and Arbutus elementary schools. This project unified us, merging us together into a new school family and fostering an ownership of our school community.”

The day of the installation, Relay held a parade. Each grade level created a banner and paraded around the building to the courtyard rock garden where the students then planted their rocks.

Many students wanted to keep their rocks but understood that they were creating beauty in a courtyard that represented Relay coming together to create a new school community.

After the ribbon-cutting, a few Relay teachers led their students past the garden. Sure enough, they wanted a closer look. That’s a common happening.

“Each time students enter the library media center, they immediately walk to the windows overlooking the space and take a peek at their rocks, smiling when they spot their own,” Relay Library Media Center specialist Laura Donhauser-Wymer said. “This project truly fostered a sense of community and friendship here.”

The Relay Elementary rock garden isn’t the only one in Team BCPS. Fort Garrison Elementary’s Kindness Rocks project gave students the opportunity to paint two rocks: one for a garden, a second they could take home.

Other rock gardens are also in the works. We look forward to seeing how students embrace those projects.

In the meantime, whenever we visit Relay Elementary and Fort Garrison Elementary, we will stop and admire the designs students came up with.

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