Digging into the past
For the second mural, McCully-Mobley says its planners decided to focus on points of significance — both good and bad — in the early history of the Lawrence County community. Those moments are preserved through imagery tied to the Trail of Tears, the Butterfield Stage, the Old Wire Road, Elk Horn Prairie and Stephen Elliott, Aurora’s founder.
“We wanted to kind of go backwards in time to the early 1800s, where things are less documented, less talked about, because we’ve lost a generation or two of firsthand accounts of it,” McCully-Mobley says.
Deciding those focuses was one place students really came into the picture. After an initial image was conceptualized by artist Raine Clotfelter, McCully-Mobley’s students began to consider and learn more about the “why” of their community.
“All of my classes got to see that image and got to talk about what they liked, what they might change, what they’d suggest,” says McCully-Mobley. “Then I used that as a tool to get them to do some research, because a lot of this stuff isn’t necessarily Google-able. You know, Google’s not going to tell them all about Stephen Elliot. It’s not going to tell them all about Aurora’s role in the Trail of Tears because those timelines are different and Aurora wasn’t Aurora then — it was a settlement.”
The students’ research projects are a classic example of place-based education, a key pillar of the Rural Schools Partnership that connects the subjects students learn in the classroom to the communities in which they live.
“They had to actually look through old newspapers, look through old books," says McCully-Mobley. "I designed the questions and the activity to have them go home and talk to their parents — another anomaly because they’re always on their phones.”
That effort has led to a greater awareness and understanding of place, like the student who learned stone for a mill was once on his family’s land.
“They think they’re critiquing the drawing, but it’s to do research and go home and talk, and tell stories,” McCully-Mobley says.