By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — A local elementary school will once again learn lessons from a top artist.
Ernest P. Barka Elementary School received a $3,083 grant from the N.H. Council on the Arts to continue the school’s Outdoor Classroom project and will invite New Hampshire sculptor Emile Birch to be part of the process.
Birch, well known for his works, will come to Barka in the spring to help students work on unique sculptures for the school’s outdoor garden.
Students previously worked with PTA volunteers and another artist to plan and complete a butterfly garden last year. The garden was dedicated in June.
Now it’s time to bring in Birch for added sculptures for the garden.
He will oversee sculptures around a theme that students will help choose. Topics could be Derry history or other subjects.
Completed sculptures will be placed in the school’s outdoor garden.
Birch has worked with other schools and communities on projects, including public works, wall creations and objects for parks.
He created the Pollyanna sculpture that stands in front of the Littleton library, paying tribute to Littleton native Eleanor Hodgman Porter, Pollyanna creator.
Birch was introduced to the Barka community on Oct. 21 during a PTA meeting. He gave a presentation on what he would be doing with students once he comes to the school next spring.
The core group of students working on the projects will be mostly fifth-graders as it ties in with their curriculum and history studies.
Each class will have its own sculpture to contribute to the garden.
Superintendent Laura Nelson said it was a great opportunity to have artists come to Derry to work with students.
“The idea we can bring such people into our schools is truly amazing,” Nelson said.
School Board Chairman Brenda Willis said Barka has been working on outdoor projects for several years. Students and volunteers have worked on trails near the school, planted flowers near fields and also worked alongside a local Boy Scout to install a bench as part of an Eagle Scout award.
She said Birch will be a great talent to bring to Derry for the garden project.
“He’s done a lot of work in other schools,” she said. “It will be a fun process to watch it grow.”