Prairie River Middle School students combined their talents to make a unique donation to the city of Merrill. Accelerated Art students and members of Student Council joined forced to produce custom mosaic benches for Merrill’s dog park at the MARC.
Art teacher Christy Rasmussen got the idea at an art convention last fall. She had leftover stained glass in her classroom, but the art department no longer had the other materials needed to work with it.
The PRMS Student Council got behind the project, ultimately raising close to $700 to purchase the concrete benches, mortar, grout and tools to complete four benches. The Student Council held dances, one of which was entirely to support the benches, and sold bracelets. 
The Accelerated Art students created stained class mosaics of dogs that were fitted into the benches. Each bench bears five mosaics, and each represents a different breed of dog. 
The Student Council members helped after school to grout the mosaics, as well. 
“This turned out above and beyond my expectations,” Rasmussen said. “A lot of kids at the middle school had their hands in this project.”
Accelerated Art student, eighth grader Cate Murray created a mosaic of a golden retriever for one of the benches. Murray said she’ll enjoy the benches while visiting the dog park with her own golden retriever.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “I bring my dog here and I can relate to not having anywhere to sit while she’s playing.”
The bench project was a great team effort, Murray added.
“I learned a lot about teamwork,” she said. “This brought a lot of people together in Student Council and Accelerated Art.”
Eight grader Molly Weix created a collie, because she’s always wanted one. She said she enjoyed learning to work with stained glass and is proud that the artwork will be on display at the dog park for years to come.
“I like it because we get to show off our talents as a team,” she said.
Spencer Woellner, a sixth grade representative on Student Council, said he’s pleased with the way the benches turned out and proud to have been part of the project.
“I think it’s really cool how they did the benches,” he said. “I’m happy that we could help get them done.”
The students presented the finished benches to the dog park Friday. Student Council advisor Glenda Yonke noted that this is the first time two groups at the middle school have worked together to provide a donation to the community.
Merrill Park and Recreation Director Dan Wendorf said he was grateful for the students’ donation of the benches, an item that has been on the dog park wish list.
“We’re extremely thankful,” he said. “They did a wonderful job.”
The dog park was opened last year. City funding covered the fence, but not much else.
“We had just enough money to build the physical structure, but didn’t have any money to do any of the amenities,” Wendorf said. 
Wendorf said the dog park has seen great use, even through the winter months. He said there are 50-75 dogs that use the park on any given day.
“The use has exceeded my expectations,” he said, adding that the dog park has actually drawn visitors to Merrill.