If you were to walk into Ocoee Elementary School’s library today, you wouldn’t recognize it from what it looked like a few months ago. The once-blank walls of the library have been brought to life with color as murals now adorn them.
“The mural represents the various types of landscapes that we have in Central Florida,” said Media Specialist Isabel Turner. “You have the wetland landscape with the cypress trees and the hanging moss. … And then you move into the Florida forest.”
The school recently unveiled its new library Tuesday, Feb. 5. Orange County School Board leaders, including District 7 School Board member Melissa Byrd, swung by Ocoee Elementary for the unveiling of the library murals.
“I think (the mural) is beautiful,” Byrd said. “Anytime you can combine fun and learning for the kids, it’s a great combination. There’s so many fantastic little learning experiences along the walls for the kids for years to come. This will be such a treasure.”
The library walls are adorned with an array of plants and animals native to Florida. Oak trees and Sabal palms adorn some of the walls, and birds like owls, cranes and cardinals — Ocoee Elementary’s mascot — rest upon the branches of those trees. One wall depicts turtles playing on logs, while another scene depicts raccoons playing soccer. Another wall is painted with a bear reading on top of a tree. And another scene shows various animals gathered around a campfire roasting marshmallows. A painted sign near them reads, “Camp Read S’more.”
“All the animals are native Florida species that you would find in this region,” Turner said. “The whole thing is whimsical. You see the purple and the blue colors in the tree — of course that’s not lifelike, but it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to be a play on (reality to) make it a children’s library.”
Turner said the murals serve more than one purpose. Not only do the murals brighten up the library, but also they serve as a teaching tool and as a tool to inspire students and others who see it.
“It’s a teaching wall,” Turner said. “A big part of having the mural was to make this an inviting space for the entire school community. … And you may feel inspired by something. You might look at the whooping crane and say, ‘I want to learn about him’ Or you may look at the fire and say, ‘How does fire work?’ It’s for you to spark your own imagination.”
A wall in one corner of the library depicts the scene of a sandhill with burrows that were dug by Florida gopher tortoises. Owls, a snake, a frog and even a skunk are depicted in the burrows along with a gopher tortoise. This scene is just one example of how the murals serve as a learning tool.
“The burrow is really important because down in the burrow is a gopher tortoise, and he’s a keystone species,” Turner said. “Without the gopher tortoise, the whole ecosystem of Central Florida collapses because he digs burrows and (other) animals make homes in the burrows in case of a wildfire.”
Ocoee Elementary’s library murals were painted by artist Lisa Mikler, who also painted the murals in the foyer of the school.