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Limited class space inspires Fair Street teacher
Cart features Costa Rican design painted by father-son team
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Gainesville High School student Juan Calderon and his father, Mauricio, painted the artwork on a cart used by Melissa Fraser at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School. - photo by Tom Reed

A move to Wood's Mill Academy's campus means a few local elementary school teachers won't have their own classrooms this year.

However, that's not stopping one teacher at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School from making do.

"I went to Walmart and I see this (kitchen cart)," said Melissa Fraser, an English to Speakers of Other Languages teacher. "By the time I got it together, I thought it was boring."

Inspired by the mission of an IB world school, Fraser went online to find carts from different cultures. She found an image of a Costa Rican ox cart and knew it was the right choice.

A friend of her family, Gainesville High School junior Juan Calderon, volunteered to paint.

"We both looked at the pictures (Fraser) sent and tried to come up with a technique to incorporate that design into the cart," said Calderon's father, Mauricio, a pastor at Global Discipleship Center.

The father and son team spent three days working on the cart. For much of the design they created handmade stencils, but Juan Calderon freehanded other portions.

The cart is a bright Red Elephant crimson — like most ox carts Fraser found photos of — with other complementing colors that stand out in the Calderons' designs. They painted it with wall and acrylic paint, which is Juan Calderon's preferred medium.

"When I saw it, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh,'" Fraser said.

Fair Street Assistant Principal Kim Davis said the school offered to provide ESOL teachers with carts, but Fraser had other plans.

"She had in her mind what she wanted," Davis said. "I have a feeling it'll be a conversation piece."

Fraser's cart has space to hold her puppets, large storybooks and everything else she uses to make the English language come to life. It's got a fold-out podium on one side and she has plans to get bigger wheels to roll it around the more spread out Fair Street campus.

She wanted her cart to reflect the culture of her students as well as the school.

"That kind of art is comfortable for our kids," she said. "No one has seen the cart yet. The teachers have all gone, ‘Oh my gosh, did you get that in Costa Rica?'"

Juan Calderon's talents are being recruited for other Fair Street furniture, including another teacher's stool and a large cabinet. Davis and Fraser briefly discussed him doing a mural when the new Fair Street building is erected.

Fraser's cart will follow her into classrooms where she will pull students aside in small groups for remediation. In the past, ESOL teachers took their students out of class entirely, but for the next two years the teachers will work in the regular classroom.

Fraser thinks the cart will be an eye-opener for students as ESOL teachers embark on this new teaching model.

"I'm pushing this cart into an English-language arts lesson using ESOL strategies," she said. "I wanted it to be something the kids would see and ask about."

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