Pleasant Valley School’s campus sees community identity live on through a wood carving of the school mascot, Buddy the Beaver.
When the campus opened in 1976, two red oak trees stood in the front lawn of the primary school. Last spring, an arborist noticed the larger of the two trees was dying, and, for the safety of students and staff, the red oak came down.
Principal Craig Pearson knew the tree meant a lot to the identity of the community on the far south side of Battle Ground Public Schools district.
“This is my seventh year here, and one thing I’ve learned with our community is they hang tight onto tradition and all things Pleasant Valley,” Pearson said. “So, I knew that when this tree was coming down, that it would be met with a lot of internal emotion and frustration and all of that. So, I worked hard with our building and our community to identify how can we lose something by getting something out of it.”
Pearson sent emails to staff and students for ideas, which led to a wood carver’s wife to pitch the idea.
Mike Bryson, a part-time artist and father to three Pleasant Valley primary students, heard about the need to save the identity built from the red oak through his wife, Jennifer.
Mike Bryson got the OK for the wood-carving project while attending the falling of the oak tree, He had arborists leave a portion of the trunk to work with, roughly 9 feet, he recalled.
His twin brother, Patrick Bryson, joined in on the fun while they worked away with chainsaws and carving tools.
The twins recalled the overall work taking 46 hours to complete. The Buddy the Beaver carving was finished in time for students and parents to meet their teachers before the first day of school this year.
“When we get new students or on back to school nights, a lot of families would put their kids next to [the carving] and take pictures,” Pearson said. “I’m super excited to see what I envision is like their back-to-school picture over the course of years.”
Pearson said that every day he watches primary students walk by the carving after school, wave and say, “Bye Buddy.”
“During the school’s spring carnival, Mike and Patrick roped off the area and worked on the statue while families looked on,” an article by Battle Ground Public Schools stated. “At that point, students referred to the carving as the ‘Minecraft beaver’ because it looked similar to blocky characters in the popular video game.”
The Bryson twins expressed the difficulties of carving hardwood, saying a lot of carvers refuse to work on red oak.
“Most chainsaw carvers will not touch red oak due to how hard it is,” Patrick Bryson said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the only red oak beaver in the world because nobody really carves hardwood.”
The twins even found a connection further than community identity with the tree.
“This tree is exactly the same age as us,” Patrick Bryson said. “We even counted the rings, 46 to be exact.”
Mike and Patrick Bryson own a part-time multi-medium art business that can be found online at brysonartdesign.com. Project inquiries can be filled out on their website as well.
To go along with Buddy the Beaver, Pleasant Valley School is working on an outdoor learning space next to the wood carving that will include a sensory garden. The sensory garden will include plants for sight, smell and so on.