Recently I was able to tap into some archived photos that I thought had long ago disappeared. I’ve decided to write some blog posts incorporating these photos to share the memories and/or inspire others to try these projects. Some are very dear to me because I took risks with my students and the end result was big learning for all of us, especially me. Also, in my nineteenth year of teaching now, I realize that ideas, projects, and programs come and go, and sometimes come back again. I’m going to categorize these posts as “Legacy Posts” because they are in the more distant past.
This first series of Legacy Posts is about the murals my students have painted in my school. I began teaching art in 2004 after teaching regular education (grade 3 & 4) for seven years. My first two years were frenetic with 750 students sorted into 30 classes per week. Frankly, it was nuts. By the third year, we had arrived at a better schedule for electives, where students came to art twice per 6-day cycle for half the year. We hired another art teacher and my student count was down to 450. We offered an exploratory electives block once every other day, and I taught a class called Leave Your Mark (mural painting). We stayed with this model for two years before moving to a model where students enrolled in actual electives in 2008/9, when the eighth grade moved from the high school to our middle school. At this time I changed my curriculum to four electives: Fiber Arts, 2D, 3D, and Art through Art Movements. Three years later, in 2011/12, we decided that a less specific program would allow middle school students to explore a greater range of art making, so we discontinued this model, at the same time changing the schedule so classes met three times per 6-day cycle. This is the model we are working with today.
For the “Leave Your Mark” class during the 2006/7 school year, 6th grade students designed murals and then painted them on the walls with acrylic paints. We worked with the custodians to make sure they were painted within rectangles so they could easily be painted around for routine wall upkeep. The set of murals below were designed to illustrate a social emotional learning/character education curriculum used in the schools at that time. Some of the key words were Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Self-Discipline, and Caring for Others.
Students worked in cooperative learning groups to decide on the character trait they would illustrate. They then worked up a design, split up the tasks involved, and chose roles. Quiet work (classes were in session) began in the fifth and sixth grade hallways for these murals and after a few weeks they were finished. The murals were sealed with a gloss medium to preserve them for eternity. Here are some photos of the then 6th grade students working on the murals:
The murals are in the gallery below. Let me know if you have any questions about the drawings and the message they intend – I think they are pretty self-explanatory?