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These students created a mural detailing the lives of 30 retirement home residents

VIRGINIA BEACH — Three eighth grade students from Old Donation School spent this past year working with 30 residents of the Atlantic Shores Retirement Community to learn about their stories and how they fit in the community around them.

Eighth graders at the school participate in a interdisciplinary yearlong capstone project that encompasses the “Sustainability Triangle,” said Dianna McDowell, Old Donation School teacher.

The goal of the project is to get students to measure their interactions with the community and learn what kind of mark they can leave, she said.

The “Sustainability Triangle” represents the three pillars of a community and can help people identify unique issues in the community.

Those three pillars are Social, Environmental and Economic.

The students were placed into groups of three or four based on interest and this group in particular chose the aging population as their focus.

For the social aspect of the project, the students worked with 30 adults living at the Atlantic Shores Retirement Community so they could hear their stories and learn about their lives.

“These kids are carrying along traditions by the spoken word,” said Beth Pursley, Atlantic Shores Retirement Community spokeswoman. “These people have interesting lives.”

To get the environmental aspect of the project done, the students teamed up with classmates who were artistically inclined and together they created a mural showing the residents represented by their stories, McDowell said.

The paint and canvass were all non-toxic and organically sourced, she said.

The students also researched the economics of aging populations.

For the final presentation, the students will unveil their mural for the Atlantic Shores community members on June 12.

“We hope this mural will serve as a catalyst for conversation between people at the retirement home,” McDowell said.

From there the mural will rotate between various local organizations, community centers and schools, Pursley said.

“We hope that this project gives our students the encouragement to be active in the community when they go on to high school,” McDowell said.

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