Fourth-graders at Oakton Elementary School painted self-portraits on pickets lining a fence at the school. The Unity Fence was part of the school’s Unity Art Project. Submitted photo

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Oakton School held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 9 to celebrate the opening of the Unity Art Project. The ceremony capped a yearlong, all-student effort to create a unique, artistic yet functional outdoor exhibit.

The Unity Art Project was initiated by Oakton parent Guylaine Herzig, who as a new school parent was inspired by the diversity of the student population and how different backgrounds and cultures functioned together as a school community.

The project consists of two major installations: a wildlife habitat composed of birdhouses, birdfeeders, and birdbaths; and the Unity Fence, a succession of pickets on which each student painted a self portrait.

Kindergartners created birdbaths decorated with their thumbprints and fingerprints in the shapes of animals, insects and flowers.

Third-graders made birdbaths that they decorated with mosaics, and also painted birdhouses and decorated birdfeeders.

The first-graders added beaded decorations to the birdfeeders and created a Unity Path using stepping stones decorated with mosaic tiles.

Second-graders built bead and wire sculptures for the school grounds.

The fourth-graders painted self-portraits on pickets that were then assembled by parents as the Unity Fence to be placed near the school’s bus lane.

Finally, a commemorative Unity Art Project poster was created using photographs of the fifth graders.