If Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” were at Tommie Barfield Elementary (TBE) on a recent Friday, she would surely have reason to exclaim “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”
Artist Heidi Saletko visited the school and set up a colorful display of palm frond zoo animal masks another art pieces, transforming the cafeteria - at least for the morning - into an exotic setting of wild life images that evoked awe and inspiration in the minds of TBE fourth graders.
Demonstrating that something ordinarily found on the grounds in our area, palm fronds, could be turned into creative pieces of art, Saletko drove home the importance and creative use of recycled material found in the environment.
Saletko also scheduled hands-on demonstrations on how to turn small pieces of raw, recycled palm fronds into exquisite animal masks.
From Jan. 25-Feb. 2, Saletko will be working with five classes of fifth grade students assisting them in creating masks of animals like Florida panthers, turtles, manatees, fish and alligators.
Principal Jory Westberry said the completed frond animal masks will be entered for judging by a distinguished panel at the Marco Island Historical Museum Frond Zoo Day at 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Feb. 18. Ribbons will be awarded and winning masks will be on display at the museum.
The family-friendly event is open to the public and will include a face painter, a visit to animals like turtles, panther, alligators, tours of the museum and a demonstration by a local kayak company. Food booths will also be on hand.
Saletko and her husband David have always been dedicated to recycling. One day, while cutting fronds on their property, he noticed that one looked like an elephant.
An avid animal lover, the artist’s creative juices started to flow and she envisioned utilizing what was to become yard trash as works of art.
“Frond Zoo is a kaleidoscope of creatures. Our wall-hanging animal masks are as unique as the trees from which they came. The shape and size of finished pieces vary slightly, but just as zebras living in the wild, no two are exactly the same,” said Saletko.
The artist has been painting the fronds for about 20 years and is often called upon to display her work as ambiance at events with an animal or jungle themes. She is a member of The Naples Artcrafters, The Naples Art Association and The United Arts Council of Collier County.
Samples of Saletko’s work may be viewed at her Facebook page (David and Heidi Saletko). Prices for her work range from $100 to $450. The animal masks will be available for purchase at the Frond Day event.
The visit was scheduled on the heels of a presentation organized by TBE reading coach, Debbie Cooper who is also the school liaison to local Waste Management.
Janet Go, The Collier County Recycling Coordinator presented a lesson designed to increase student awareness of recycling materials with the aid of a video that showed recyclable items as well as examples of student poster artwork that depicted the importance of recycling.
Cooper said that she passed around objects that were made from recycled materials such as a tray and a type of rubber mat. Go also explained that objects marked with the recycling triangle are those that can be recycled.
She referenced that each school in Collier County was involved with a recycling competition, through recycling paper, cardboard and plastic water bottles and cans.
“Since this assembly, we have also made our students more aware of the recycling efforts of our cafeteria staff. After they collect enough flip tops from aluminum cans, they take large bags of the tops to MacDonald’s to be sold for funds to support the Ronald McDonald House,” said Cooper.
“The lesson has heightened their sense of civic and school duty towards the necessity of recycling. They are proud of their recycling efforts at TBE and are now more aware about the objects they recycle at home.”