Kahoa students create winning scenes with special rock paintings

Kahoa Elementary School students are swimming in a sea of self-confidence and joy this fall thanks to a special art and reading project.
Kahoa students have filled a flower garden with their own painted “fish” rocks as part of the “Only One You” initiative. School leaders read a book called “Only One You” in each classroom during the second week of the school year. The book – which features fish characters – highlights how all students have unique talents that make them important.
Kahoa students Milena, Gwen, Jaylah and Theodore said they have enjoyed everything about the schoolwide project. They spotted their fish rocks during a trip to the garden and held them up with pride for others to see.
“It’s been fun seeing my work on a rock,” said Milena, who painted her rock with a smiling face, colored stripes and ten stars. “I’ve really liked it.”
“I like drawing, so this was something that was fun to do,” said Gwen, who created a skillful combination of multi-colored stripes, dots and wavy lines on her rock. “It’s been a really good thing.”
Principal Mandy Nickolite-Green said she has been thrilled with the way students have responded to the project. The “Only One You” storyline features parent fish who share encouraging words with their children fish about their special abilities and gifts. The parents show how all fish in the sea are significant and valuable.
Nickolite-Green and other Kahoa leaders felt it was important to expand on the book’s positive message. They also saw a golden opportunity to tie the project in with a new pollinator garden located outside one of the school’s entrances.
A donation of $1,500 given through the Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools Fund A Need program helped pay for the Kahoa garden. Kahoa used the gift to install mulch, river rock, square steps and pollinator-friendly plants and grasses this summer.
“The kids really enjoyed the book, and there were a lot of good insights that they could take from it,” Nickolite-Green said. “We thought it would be fun to apply what they learned in the book to a project for the entire building, and that’s how the rock garden came about. It’s been awesome. They’ve been so excited about the rock garden and painting their special rock.”
Art teacher Michelle Hansen-Daberkow helped all Kahoa students design their fish-shaped crafts. They used acrylic markers to sketch ideas on their rock and then brightened them with waterproof paint. They could choose any combination of colors and illustrations.
“I think they had a great experience,” Hansen-Daberkow said. “It was fun to watch them come up with ideas and to see the end result of their work. They made a lot of neat designs on their rocks.”
Many students such as Jaylah and Theodore based their drawings on their personal stories. Jaylah wanted to honor her father by painting the red, white and green colors of the Mexican flag. He grew up in Mexico and has helped his daughter succeed in school.
“My dad is really special to me, so I thought this was a good idea,” Jaylah said.
Theodore turned his rock into a fish-shaped baseball. He painted red stitches on top of a white surface to make his Hall of Fame creation.
“I really like playing baseball,” Theodore said. “When I heard about it in art class I knew I wanted to paint a baseball.”
Nickolite-Green and Hansen-Daberkow gathered all of the completed paintings for the garden in mid-September. Hansen-Daberkow also created her own “Only One You” rock as a way to let students and visitors know about the theme. Nickolite-Green then placed hundreds of rocks on several garden pathways for everyone to view.
Nickolite-Green said the rocks have acted as a magnet for people to spend time in the garden. She said their colorful designs symbolize how all fish in the Kahoa sea are special, creative and valuable.
“It’s become a focal point for all of the kids,” Nickolite-Green said. “It’s something that they take a lot of pride in, because they can go out there and find their own rock. It’s something that they created themselves and is special to them. It’s been really fun to see that.”
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Published: October 23, 2023, Updated: October 23, 2023