My Life at the MACC
The Office of the Director
Little Root Swears in Mayor; Opens Tiny Town
By Michelle Michaud
Earth Day, 2015, the perfect day to hold the grand opening of Signal Mountain’s newest tiny town– Little Root, located just outside the Mountain Arts Community Center (MACC).
“Do you solemnly swear to uphold the office of mayor to the best of your ability?” asked the Honorable Judge retired Mickey Barker. “I do,” said Ella Saunders, Little Root’s first12-year old mayor. “Do you promise to protect its neighborhoods and streets to the best of your ability,” he said. “I do,” said Ella. “Then, by the power vested in me, I declare you, Ella Saunders, Mayor of Little Root with all the powers the title holds. Congratulations Mayor Saunders,” said Judge Barker.
The crowd of Little Root Residents, wearing lime-green t-shirts and eating ice cream, erupted in applause. Beach Boys music played in the background and parents and dignitaries admired each child’s dwelling – designed, built, painted, and placed in a raised bed next to the MACC.
“The grand opening event was the culmination of an ArtsBuild Grant and months of hard work and dedication on the part of more than 45 students, several adult volunteers, and MACC staff,” said Barb Storm.
“I’ve never seen students have so much fun learning in so many different areas of discipline in such a short amount of time. It’s really something to be proud of,” she said.
But no one was more proud than the students themselves. Since January, the students engaged in STEAM, or Science Technology, engineering, Arts and Math to make a fairy town of sorts better known as MACC’s Mini-Metropolis. The name change occurred as students wrapped up the class with a lesson in civics and public service.
“The students got together and renamed their town Little Root,” said Michelle Michaud, MACC staff and program manager. “Then, we taught them about elected office, asked them to decide who their candidates would be, taught them how to campaign, and required them to write and present speeches,” said Michaud.
“Dear Fellow Engineers,” began one candidate. “I promise to keep the town safe from intruders and clean and tidy,” she said.
“Then we held an election complete with ballots and voting booths,” Michaud Said. “It was a true delight to witness these children experience voting for their candidate with all the seriousness that evokes.”
Ella Saunders won the election with 51% of the vote. Tally Pierce, 8 year old mini-metropolis student, certified the election results.
“My child had the best time in the class,” said Ruth Farrimond, Grace’s mother. “She just comes home after every class raving about how much fun she had that day.”
“We took a hands off approach with the students and gave them a lot of leeway to imagine how their fairy’s home would look, where it would be located and how it would function within the town,” said Lolly Durrant, program director.
Durrant was also quick to say it was an exhausting process for the adults in charge, “Oh yes, it wore us out. Letting their minds be free to create anything their hearts desired, then helping make that come true.”
Some of the structures turned out to look very normal, and others looked unconventional and far out. Town Hall looked like a stump with twigs attached, but on the other side of town was a pet hospital with a dolphin painted on the side.
“I had the best time working with these kids,” said Andrea Phelps, Little Root volunteer and professional artist and designer. “You never knew from one class to the next what we were going to be doing because it was all based on what the kids accomplished the class before. So we were constantly adjusting our timelines to accommodate the student’s needs,” said Phelps.
Michaud said the fairy garden installation is interactive. Town residents are encouraged to visit and bring brightly colored objects to place in the garden, “Fairies like brightly colored and shiny objects.”
“Watch for new and exciting classes at the MACC! This is just the start of many offerings that will incorporate the STEAM principles. We will also apply for more grants to help us offer these kind of multi-disciplinary classes,” said Barb Storm.