When art teacher Sara Ingraffia saw a competition challenging students to create a rain barrel design, she decided it would be an ideal project for her students.
“We made a lesson out of it,” said Ingraffia, who teaches art at Vaughn Occupational High School. “We talked about recycling and water conservation, then each student created their own original rain barrel design.”
Sponsored by the Illinois Department of Transportation, the contest required students to submit design sketches in colored pencil. Fifty winners were selected from throughout Illinois, and their schools were awarded a rain barrel on which the student artist could paint their winning design. One such winner was Vaughn freshmen Arneisha Fox.
“It couldn’t have happened to a sweeter student,” said Ingraffia. “I couldn’t wait to tell her – I went running all over school looking for her when I found out. She was so ecstatic.”
To honor her home state, Arneisha chose to make a cardinal, Illinois’ state bird, the center of her design. Behind the cardinal are intricately woven branches, with decorative designs included throughout the sketch. Vaughn received the rain barrel in early spring, then waited for a dry stretch of weather so that it could be painted outdoors.
”The first step was to put a coat of primer on the rain barrel,” said Ingraffia. “Then Arneisha had to sketch the design on to it in pencil, which was difficult to do spacially. It was interesting to watch her figure that out.”
The final step was to fill in the sketch with a colored latex paint that will withstand the elements, as the rain barrel will be kept outside.
“We added the rain barrel to our school garden,” said Ingraffia. We’ll use it to water the plants and further our other recycling efforts.”
Vaughn is what is known as a “zero waste” school, meaning that they place a great deal of emphasis on recycling and conservation. Students in culinary classes use vegetables grown in the school garden for their cooking, and water from the rain barrel will be used for many purposes, including an upcoming car wash fundraiser.
“The best thing about Arneisha’s winning design is that it brought us something the students can use for years to come,” said Sara Ingraffia. “It’s not just a certificate or a medal. It’s a permanent, useful reminder of her talent and hard work.”