We worked with local artist group Concrete Couch to create a 3' X 10' tile mosaic mural that was placed near our learning garden. We started by having students at all grades draw pictures to form some ideas for the mural. These ideas were nature themed, but also were reflected of what each grade level learned. From this, we created a rough idea of what the project would like and decided on three main sections: river, land, and sky, each with their own shapes and colors.
After the pictures were drawn, the entire school K-5 worked to make a variety of clay tiles that made up the majority of the mural. These were made with 2 classes at once and several parent volunteers as well. This is how every student was involved in the project.
The tiles (over 200) were then dried for about three days and fired at Cone .5 to dry and harden them. After all the tiles were glazed, they were fired again at Cone 5 to bake the glaze in and give them a shiny look. We are lucky enough to have a kiln at our school, so most of the tiles were fired at school.
After we had all the tiles, we used a tile adhesive to put the large pieces down first and then the small ones to fill the space. After the mural was together, we let it dry a few days before we grouted it. Because the grout was a more difficult process and slightly toxic, we had 2 parent volunteers help with the process.
On a staff workday, it was hung with the help of 4 people. It was hung in two pieces and a lot of big screws, and then we set the final tiles in the middle. Two days later we grouted those and it was pretty much done. On Earth Day, the project was unveiled along with a newly renovated outdoor classroom. We also made some simple modular log seats with Concrete Couch as well, which added to the projects success.
The experience was wonderful. It was a lot of hard work, but very rewarding to see such a cool project come together. It is great that it will be a centerpiece of the learning garden for years to come and bring many people out to see it. The biggest high point was seeing all the kids walk by when it was done.
A few of the challenges included working with the large number of students at once when making tiles, it took about 8 adults to go with the 60 kids to make it feasible, and it was still a bit chaotic with certain groups.
There were several unique experiences, but the groups of two students who made the biggest tiles seemed to have one of the best as they got to make a large contribution to the mural.
Other schools could do a similar project with the help of an art organization or person who had the knowledge. There was quite a bit to it and even though I had worked with clay and installed tiles before, I learned a lot in the process and do not think that the project would have been possible without Concrete Couch’s help.
Many standards were met in different groups, as there were many learning opportunities with math and science that occurred. The following standards were covered in visual art:
Standard: 1. Observe and Learn to Comprehend -Visual arts connect multiple characteristics of art
Standard: 3. Invent and Discover to Create - Apply an understanding of art processes and creative thinking to plan and create art
The main goals of the project were to create a showpiece of visual art for the garden and have the entire student body involved with it at some point. This project accomplished both of these and created a piece of art that everyone that worked on can be proud of and will represent da Vinci for many years to come.