Outside the school on the marquis in the midst of the lawn of Urbandale Elementary School, the names of their three 2015 Carson Scholar winners were proudly displayed in black block letters on the traditional white background, celebrating academic excellence.
In a salute to the multi-faceted nature of Battle Creek, Michigan, the Urbandale Elementary School Reading Room incorporated a few features of some of the special attractions of the city. Your gaze was immediately drawn upward to the vibrantly colored canopy over the reading room, reminiscent of a vertically striped balloon a la “Around the World in 80 days,” framed by a bright yellow skirt. This represented the historic balloon festival that was hosted by Battle Creek every year for 35 years! Another family attraction that Battle Creek is famous for is the Binder Park Zoo, where everyone can experience the habitats and see creatures from around the world. One particular exhibit there, and one of the most popular, Wild Africa, is captured in the mural covering two walls of the reading room, as you see thatch-roofed huts and other structures to protect from the wild. You also see the typical tall giraffes, placidly grazing zebras and impalas and exotic big birds all in a vast, but log-fenced enclosure.
The standard issue brown tweed carpet in the room was mostly covered by a royal blue rug, whose border has a shelf sporting books on various subjects. The shelves were accompanied by artifacts of those interests, including pink ballet slippers, a fireman’s hat, an astronaut’s helmet and a pharmacist’s mortar and pestle. The cozy chairs included one of Clifford the Big Red Dog, a large Windsor-style rocker and the old favorite – beanbag chairs. The modular half-wall held books on the inside of the room, while the exterior part of these walls act like a visual magnet. The walls drew students to the reading haven with large letters in colors of the rainbow spelling out the favorite inspirational acrostic, THINK BIG, a sentiment that is echoed in the clouds on the wall!
Thank you again to the W.K. Kellogg Institute for sponsoring this first Ben Carson Reading Room to be established in the state of Michigan, Dr. Carson’s original home state! And thank you to all the volunteers who made it all happen!