RESPECT: One Rule Fits All

Respect is what I want from you
Respect is what I need
Respect is what I want
Respect is what I need – Otis Redding

Last week I was cleaning out the art department storage area at school and came upon the pieces from a collaborative art project from long ago – probably during the 2006/2007 school year – which I can tell only by the names of the artists still written on the back of the panels. (I love these moments when names of former students recall sweet memories from long ago).

Curious to see what kind of shape the project was in, I pulled out all the panels and except for 20 or so missing mosaic tabs/tiles, it was in great shape.

Fortunately, I had a bag of tabs left over so I easily patched the missing areas. I have a pre-service student teacher one day each week this semester, Shaina, who quickly offered to lend a hand. Once the individual 8″ squares were all set, Shaina and I laid them out in order following the grid mock-up:

There are 110 individual squares that make up the mosaic. After we had laid out the squares, we glued them in 2 columns of 5 squares each on large pieces of black tag board. I laminated the 11 large sheets, then trimmed off the excess laminate. I used a staple gun to stick them to the bulletin board. I don’t mind that it’s slightly crooked, just thrilled to have all the pieces and to be able to display them. Here is the label to explain the project:

And a few more photos:

butterflies - 1 (2)





I designed this mural as a collaborative effort for my students (7th and 8th grade at the time) so they could see the magnitude of a cooperative project – as in a “many hands make light work” sort of way. We were using a Character Education curriculum then for which the most important tenet was Respect, and I expected the large word posted on a wall in a prominent place would be impactful. Fortunately (or maybe especially right now) Respect is a timeless ideal in every situation from individual relationships with family or friends, the school community, the work place, within political discourse, and throughout a civil society.


This project was part of a deeper project about classic mosaics, art history, and architecture. For those faithful to the elements of art and principles of design, the concepts we’re utilizing here are Shape, Color (warm/cool), Contrast, and Emphasis. This would also be a good project to tie into an exploration of stained glass.


I designed the grid mock-up by shading in the block letters with orange and then numbering the squares. I then looked at each square individually on the graph paper and transferred it to the 8″ x 8″ grids  that I had photocopied using check marks to indicate where the warm color tiles should be glued. Students worked in groups of four to complete each square.

When this first hung on the board, each square was still separate – that was a lot of stapling. I suspect the laminator wasn’t operational at the time or something, because stapling 110 individual squares is just a little crazy.

These are the paper tiles we used:


I love this piece. It is colorful and vibrant and impactful with its message. My students did a fabulous job working together to bring this to life. However, it was my idea, not theirs. As I consider whether or not to do this or something similar again, I would use the creation of a large cooperative piece like this as the introduction or “hook” into a project-based learning unit or a more student-centered unit on mosaics. Once the collaborative piece is finished, I would put it out to the kids for their input on possibilities for content, images, and medium. I would like to see what they’d come up with, and I expect it would be great.




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