COLUMBIA — In the lobby of the Mid-Missouri Chapter of the American Red Cross hangs a newly finished clay relief mosaic of the organization's symbol.
Students in kindergarten through fourth grade at Lee Elementary School learned about volunteering by creating the mosaic. The mosaic includes shapes the students felt represent the organization: raindrops, hearts and a helicopter among them.
Former Peace Corps member Colleen Diessner, who worked in Africa for two years and graduated last weekend from MU, started the project while volunteering at Lee Elementary through a fellowship program in MU's Department of Geography during spring 2011.
For the art part of the project, Diessner began by painting four squares on the wall of the lobby depicting the Red Cross helping people around the world.
"I really wanted the international representation," she said of the pictures that would become the border for the mosaic.
She then turned the project over to the art teachers at Lee, Ann Mehr and Gennie Pfannenstiel, who both specialize in clay and sculpture. Mehr wrote the Links to Learning grant to fund the project.
"At Lee, we teach through the arts, so we try to make as many curriculum connections as possible," Mehr said.
In this case, students could see how their studies of the weather and the human body connected to the mission of the Red Cross. The project allowed the students to have fun while still learning.
"I liked doing the molding and the gluing of the glass," third-grader Quincy Brown said.
On Friday, Lee students went to Columbia's Red Cross building on West Worley Street to see their work hung in the lobby, surrounded by Diessner's paintings. This trip also gave them the opportunity to learn more about the organization.
Mary Summitt, a Red Cross volunteer, spoke to the students about what the Red Cross does and what kinds of programs it offers.
"With your help, we can save lives," she told them.
Third-grader Ellie Carver-Horner enjoyed the presentation.
"I learned that there are a lot of (Red Crosses) all over the world," she said.
Mehr said that by learning about the Red Cross, the students got a sense of the greater good.
"A creative, energized community depends on volunteers," she said.