Give them an M

Published 9:55 am Thursday, March 18, 2010

It all started with an “M” on an index card.

After a Southwest Middle School teacher spotted some talent in a couple of her students, that small letter grew to a 6-by-10-foot mural in her classroom.

Eighth-graders Cody Scherff and Dalton Carlson consider themselves big University of Minnesota fans.

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“It’s kind of our dream college,” Carlson said.

“We wear Gopher shirts at least twice a week,” Scherff added.

Scherff drew a Minnesota “M” to scale on an index card during learner support hour in Karol Hansen’s classroom. She then urged him to make it into a poster.

They joked about putting it on the wall, so Hansen got permission to have the “M” painted in her classroom.

“I didn’t think Mrs. Langseth (Southwest’s principal) would object, since all three of her sons attended the University of Minnesota,” Hansen said.

The pair used a transparency and projector to enlarge it onto the wall and they traced the image. Hansen bought the paints and supplies they needed.

“They applied their math skills and problem-solving skills,” Hansen said. “They did something constructive and educational all at the same time.”

When the pair finished the wall with the “M,” the adjacent wall looked pretty bland. So they began putting Goldy the Golden Gopher onto that wall. Goldy’s mural is about 6 feet tall by 6 feet wide.

Hansen said they worked on the murals for about an hour per day. If they had homework, they did that first.

It took them about a month and a half to paint the “M” wall. They’ve been working on Goldy’s wall for about another month and a half, Carlson said.

Scherff said there was a friendly competition going with some Iowa fans. “They tried to make a poster, too, but it didn’t turn out so well,” he said.

Some people told them they couldn’t do it, Carlson said, but that only made them want to do a better job.

“A lot of kids didn’t think we did the ‘M,’” Carlson said. “They thought a professional had done it.

Scherff’s parents, Sheri Fleek and Duane Scherff Sr., and Carlson’s mother, Vonnie Carlson, have been in to see the work.

Hansen couldn’t be happier with the way things are turning out. “They’re perfectionists,” she said.

Brenda Morris shares the classroom with Hansen, and she, too, likes the creativity. “It sure beats a white wall,” Morris said.

Scherff and Carlson have noticed another result of their work, too.

“Some kids who have never worn Gopher shirts are wearing them now,” Scherff said.