Lennoxville Elementary’s Tree of Knowledge taking root

School launches fundraising campaign

By Matthew McCully

If all goes according to plan, when students at Lennoxville Elementary School (LES) show up for the first day of class next fall, they will stand in the shadow of a great oak tree, bearing the knowledge of generations past, and offering newcomers a place in the school’s history.
The Tree of Knowledge, a mural project years in the making, finally has the green light after a pandemic speed bump, and inspections to ensure the big red wall facing Academy Street could sustain the weight of 30 large cement-like puzzle pieces making up the mammoth art installation.
The school held an assembly on Thursday, May 25, to share the good news. Members of the committee in charge of the mural project explained the significance of the Tree of Knowledge and what it will represent for past, present and future generations of students.
“I wanted them to take a sense of ownership of the historical value of the school,” explained committee member and teacher Dana Gillam. “There is such a history to our school,” she said, adding it was built in 1912 and underwent several transformations over the years, ultimately serving as a high school until students moved to Alexander Galt Regional High School in 1969, when it became an elementary school. “It’s a historic, momentous occasion,” the committee members agreed, “it’s part of their student history.”
And that theme is prominent in the design which, for the moment, remains hush hush. For the time being, only blurred glimpses are available, but Sigal Hirshfeld, another mural committee member, sparked the imagination of students by having them close their eyes as she described the Tree of Knowledge: an oak tree growing out of a stack of books, each one representing a different era of the school; symbols of education through the ages; an abacus, a calculator; a chalk board, a laptop. And of course, students, playing around the tree, exploring the space.
The design was brought to life by artist Raphaelle Coulombe-Allie, an experienced muralist, and founder and artistic director of MUR MURA. Coulombe-Allie and her team will spend the summer working on the mural in pieces, and according to the organizing committee, she will document the process on video so LES students can later see how the project came together step by step.
The mural committee hopes the Tree of Knowledge can create a connection between current students and their parents and grandparents, to talk about what the school was like when they attended. Hirshfeld added that everyone in the area knows at least one person who went to LES. “The times we’re in, we need to bring people together,” she said, to celebrate something positive. “That’s what art is all about.”
LES Principal Dawn Irving added that people often forget how much a school contributes to community life.
Ever since she has lived in the area, when driving into Lennoxville from Sherbrooke, Hirshfeld has always passed the big red LES wall and thought to herself, “What the heck is that thing doing there?”
By the fall, that huge blank canvas will become a colourful focal point for the community.
Now there is just the matter of the bill.
According to Irving, the project is a substantial financial undertaking, and a challenge to pitch for support. “If it’s something for the kids,” Irving said, people don’t think twice. She used the example of the breakfast program, or class trips.
Building something that will instill pride in the students and create connections with the broader LES community is as important, Irving said, but harder to explain.
Hirshfeld had no trouble, though. “It is for the kids! But we’re not just giving it to them, we’re giving it to their grandchildren,” she said happily.
Letters have already gone out to parents describing the beautification project and explaining how to donate, but the school is hoping extended family, local businesses and alumni will help the Tree of Knowledge grow.
Every little bit helps, Irving said, and there are also sponsorship opportunities for donations over $500.
Cheques can be mailed to Lennoxville Elementary School at 1 Academy Street, Sherbrooke, QC, postal code J0M 2A6.
For more information about sponsorship packages, contact Irving by email at irvingd@etsb.qc.ca.

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