GENT – Children at a Ghent daycare center have a rock-solid opportunity to beautify their community.
They paint medium-sized rocks in a variety of colors, patterns, and themes. Later, they take the stones on walks and place them in prominent places.
Day care worker Jojo Schroepfer said the rock art started in 2017 with a project honoring fathers on Father’s Day. Each child made a handprint on a rock with a message such as: “You rock dad.”
“I was trying to think of a good Father’s Day project, something we had never done before.” said Schröpfer. “For Mother’s Day we usually do a floral theme. I thought stones would appeal to dads.”
The project went so well that she decided to offer the children regular rock painting opportunities.
It wasn’t long before some of the finished bricks were showing up all over Ghent – in the city park, on the local cobbled path, in the city’s Roll-Bolle squares and at several business locations.
“This is what we are known for” said Schröpfer. “People like them and notice when we release new ones. Some have even donated rocks and paint.”
The rock art is created in the summer months. The process involves a series of stone hunts in which people search for a special stone. Several sponsors offer gift certificates for those who find them.
“We kept the stone hunts local”, said Schröpfer. “We spread the word by word of mouth. Parts of it coincide with our Belgian-American days.”
She said she keeps the painting process simple, something preschoolers can enjoy. Sometimes children create multicolored designs. In other cases, they completely cover the rock with a single background color on which she adds letters or other details.
She teaches them not to mix wet paints, as the result is almost always a brown rock surface. She seals the stones before they are placed outdoors so the paint will withstand rain.
Schroepfer has worked as a day care worker in Ghent for 41 years. Since going to school, she started a daycare center to support her children’s development and to be able to stay at home for her own children.
She now has several childminders whose parents have attended her daycare in the past. The daily routine in the day care was always a lot of fun for her.
“It’s a fun job”She said. “I have always enjoyed working with the children. This is what God intended for me.”