Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Springline Construction worker uses an excavator Thursday afternoon to help prepare the foundation for a modular building set to house Wyola Public School’s new art and culture classrooms. Springline intends to finish its work by Saturday.

Kite enthusiast helps secure funds for new Wyola art, culture classrooms

Construction has nearly finished on a new building at Wyola Public School in order to give the cultural and art departments some breathing room. This project, whose cost is estimated in the hunderds of thousands of dollars, was made possible through donations from private citizens. Large donors included Jim Scott, chair of the board of directors at First Interstate Bank; and Ryan Willett, president of the Harry L. Willett Foundation out of Denver.
 
Funding was organized by Terry Zee Lee, founder of SkyWindWorld, a nonprofit group formed in 1999 to promote art kiting. In SkyWindWorld’s “Kites in the Classroom” workshops – held throughout southeastern Montana and in Bozeman – students can learn math and science principles by constructing and flying kites.
 
“[Willett] and I got this going last spring,” Lee said. “Ryan had said, ‘Figure out something Wyola really needs.’
 
“‘Where would $20,000 [go]?’ is actually what he said at the beginning. Where would $20,000 do the most good?”
 
Lee’s interactions with children drew her attention to the condition of the art and culture departments, and gave rise to the donations that would lead to the construction of a new building. According to Lee, the school will receive three 25-by 40-foot rooms, and “they really need” them.
 
The building will be used as a place to store items – some of them delicate – for classes, and teach adults as well as kids. Two educators – who Lee said “should be the stars of this” – will be utilizing the space: art teacher Maggie Carlson and Crow cultural teacher Janice Wilson.
 
“They have both been teaching on the reservation for years and years and years,” Lee said, “and getting the kids excited about art and who they are, and teaching them how to express it.”
 
The new building will be the setting for their Crow culture and language classes, as well as art classes, which presently do not have a classroom. Lack of space presents a challenge for Carlson and Wilson, who are required to bring any education materials to and from other classrooms for each of their classes. Doing so takes away from the time and energy that could otherwise be spent further preparing for each lesson.  
 
 “We’ve outgrown [the current space], and there’s no room for art or culture or PE. We just don’t have the facilities for it anymore,” Carlson said. “Terry Lee just took it on as a project. She’s good at fundraising and so it’s happening.”
 
The building itself is a modular unit pre-built before delivery. Springline Construction has taken charge of prepping the surrounding infrastructure. They intend to finish installation work by Saturday.
 
“We’re very proud that it’s going to be here and that it’s going to improve the facilities,” Acting Principal Levi Yellow Mule said.
 
SkyWindWorld currently is selling beaded mugs, Lee said, and 100 percent of each sale goes toward funding the new classrooms. “Anyone who wants to buy Christmas gifts,” she continued, can visit the Custer Battlefield Trading Post in Crow Agency, Wyola Public School or call her at (406) 698-9369.
 
“You can call me or anyone involved in the project,” she said, “and we’ll sell you mugs for your whole organization.”
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