"A couple groups have been particularly wonderful because they start to think as independent little artists," she said. "They go ahead and mix the paint when they run out of it and they know what to do. You give them a little bit of direction and they run with it."
Hagendorf's $3,000 salary is being paid by the Pennsylvania Council of Arts and the Wissahickon School District. In addition to the mural project, she works on personal projects at the school so the children can see a professional artist at work.
Though Hagendorf painted the sketches for the mural, she said, she borrowed ideas from 200 drawings submitted by the students.
"I wanted it to be a continuing landscape so they're kind of connected," she said. "Just the time of day changes so we can have different colors rather than four separate paintings."
On Tuesday, the children were still in the preliminary stages of the four- panel mural, which will become a fixture in the main hallway at Shady Grove. The planned completion of the tropical landscape is May. Bird sculptures and palm trees will accompany the mural.
Asked if she had ever painted before, Sarah Caputo, 10, said, "Yes, I helped my mom paint my room. This is easier."
About 30 children have worked on the project, and Hagendorf said many of them have gone home wearing more paint than they put on the wall.
"Let's be frank," Hagendorf said. "Yesterday . . . those children walked out of here with paint in their hair. They even had smocks on and they got paint on their clothes. I need to send a letter home to the parents."