Last Winter, I was asked to come up with a mural idea for an Elementary school I was doing an internship with. I got very complicated with a university supervisor suggesting I get all the teachers involved, have all the students fill out reflection forms, coordinate a team of other interns, etc… then Covid hit and the whole thing was shelved.

This past Fall, I was again in the same elementary school at an Intern and substitute teacher. The chair of our program again approached me to ask if I was still interested in doing a mural. This time he asked me to write up a proposal and he would be co-supervising me with the maker space teacher, whom I am interning with, and that I should send the proposal to him.

Here’s my proposal:

Budget:  Approximately $1,000 (first year, for set-up); *$200 – $300 subsequent years (relative to inflation on consumables)

Item List (with justification for each item): 

  • Band Saw — Will be used to cut the wood for this project and several other maker projects for the years to come. Needed as part of the set up in the maker space.
  • Drill set — Needed as part of the set up in the maker space; will be used for years to come for the continued assembly of the workstations and maker projects.
  • Shop Vac — Needed as part of the set up in the maker space; will be used for years to come for the safety and health.
  • Wood: (2” x 4” x 8’) — The Mural Wall will be a semi-permanent installation consisting of 
  • Sanding sponges (or paper) — The students will be charged with sanding the edges of the (teacher-cut) blocks and the process will teach them how to prepare the wood for resurfacing. 
  • PL Construction Glue — The wood blocks will be clued onto a prepared concrete wall in the entrance hallway of the school. This glue is chosen for ease and safety of use, as well as offering less damage to the structure of the wall surface.
  • Latex house Paint: 5 gallons (Black, White, Red, Blue, Yellow) — These basic colours allow the students the opportunity to mix their own colour choices. Latex house paint is available in less toxic (low or non-VOC) options and are durable enough to last for many years without rapid colour fading or chipping. It is also washable with water. 
  • Paint Brushes — At this time, the school has enough art paintbrushes. The supply may need refreshing in the coming years.
  • iPads — These are temporary display components of this first installation and will be used as documentation and reflection devices by the students. The school has the supply needed. 
  • Smart phones — These will be part of the sharing component of future years. They are expected to be supplied by the students, but won’t be mandatory. 

Note on Fundraising: In future years, the request for artist paintbrushes and unused 2”x 4” wood and sanding paper could be sent to the grade 6 parents at the beginning of the school year, or early in the Spring-cleaning season. 

Description / Procedure:

  • The intention is to celebrate the voices of the graduating students and offer them a creative venue to express their experience at the school and inspire the students that follow them. This would be a yearly recurring project; over time, covering the inner concrete walls (eventually extended to outer walls) of the school. The legacy wall represents the individual students place in a larger community. There are fifty-five students graduating from grade six in 2021 at Dorval Elementary and it is their voices that will be represented by the initial project this year. Each future following year will represent subsequent graduating classes. 
  • Based on the “Deep Learning” education-philosophy that guides the character of this school’s community, the students will be asked to answer the following questions: i) In a word, what does community mean to you? ii) In an image, how would you represent your meaning to others? Community is chosen as the initial word to reflect the concept of citizenship from the Deep Learning pillars (see. Fig. 3). It aims to make the students aware of their place in this community and of their responsibility as its stewards for those who follow them.
  • Continuing the successful strategy used in Le Lab (D.E. maker space) of giving clear, minimally constrained, and open-ended instructions, each students will be asked to design their wood-brick (2” x 4” x 8”) with their word, image (or combination of both). Then paint them hand sign it with their name and graduation year. They will participate in the placing and mounting of the bricks on the school walls. On a voluntary basis, they will record their reflections on the project, what their creations mean to them, and what they want to say to the younger students. These messages will be played back through the iPads that will be placed on display within the mural installation, and/or through the VR option of using QR codes with the FlipGrid app. The dissemination of this project may also be undertaken by the AV club who makes photo and video montages (vlogs) that are posted on the school’s Facebook page. 
  • The teacher intervention in this making process is the cutting of the wood-bricks. This will change in subsequent years as our tool-safety protocol and training is in development for the maker space. The students will sand and clean the wood blocks, transfer their designs to them, paint them, glue them to the wall, then record and edit their reflections, before transferring them to the teacher for dissemination. The duration of this project is estimated to be five weeks: from answering the questionnaire to submitting their reflections. 
  • Documentation of the process will be undertaken by the teacher (Mario Perron), with the help of Marc Traversy and some volunteer students. The final report will include images and anecdotal notes, as well as reflections by the teacher on where the process works best and where it can be improved. 

Images: All photos by Mr. Mario & Mr. T, 2021

Fig. 1 — Possible wood block placement on hallway wall.  
Fig. 2 — Tech. Display component to the mural. 
Fig. 3 — Deep Learning posters – Displayed throughout Dorval Elementary.  

Here’s my report:

Project Overview: 

  • Initiative to celebrate the voices of graduating Grade 6 students; opportunity to express their learning experience at Dorval Elementary and offer advice to all present and future students of the school; designed as an ongoing yearly project representing the unique culture of this community school. 
  • To establish a sense of belonging to a community.
  • Based on “Deep Learning” philosophies that make up the teaching values of the school.
  • Implementing the STEAM based approach established in “Le Lab’s” Makerspace. 
  • To incorporate the use of technology — digital recordings of the making process and student reflections as part of the installation.
  • Launched as School Intervention – applied to Concordia University’s ARTE398-Special Topics

Guiding Objectives:

  • To provide a creative expression and visual representation of the graduating students’ interpretation of the Dorval Elementary Community. 
  • To provide practical skills with power tools and materials they might not normally use in a regular art or science class: construction lumber, power saw, power sander, etc…
  • To provide an opportunity to express their learning experience and advice they would like to give to younger students about success in this community.
  • To offer different materials to explore in this expression that will vary yearly.

Guiding Directives: 

  • Reflect on your message: *1-“In one word, what does community mean to you?”
  • Reflect on the visual representation of your message: *2-“If your word was an image, what would it be?”
  • Make a rough sketch of your design: *3-“Make a sketch that combines your word and image.”
  • Prepare your piece of wood: cut (if possible); sand smooth; draw on image/words; apply given medium to render your image/words (sharpie, paint, collage, etc…)
  • Record your maker reflection and/or advice to future students using iMovie or other app on the iPad. 

Some student feedback on directive points: 

*1-In one word, what does community mean to you?

  • “people” was the most common answer across the three classes (approx. 60 participating students) 
  • Other words appeared, both connected to “people” and alone: confident, togetherness, happiness, home, be yourself, friendship, stand together, family, etc…

*2-If your word was an image, what would it be?

  • The answered were widely varied and often didn’t directly explain the sketches that followed. When I asked some students to elaborate on their answers connected to their images, they frequently demonstrated their comfort in expressing was stronger in words or images. 
  • Here are some of the answers: “Friendship => hearts, sunflowers, smiles, infinity”; “confident people => a group of people that stand for what they support”; “Be you/yourself => It would be a modern & minimalist background with someone who isn’t afraid to be themselves.”; etc… (Others examples will be connected to images.)

Words & Sketches:      

Project Challenges & Solutions:

  • Timing became a challenge due to Ped days and scheduling (some of the groups scheduled Lab times fell on them). 
  • Classes being closed due to Covid also had an impact on teacher availability when both Marc & I were occasionally taken from the Lab to replace teachers. 
  • Some students were offered time to finish work during lunch hours. 
  • Initially paint was to be used for this project, but storage space for drying became scarce in Le Lab with various other projects also being done at the same time for other grades. The decision was taken to use Sharpies for the first products. 
  • In following years, the project will be started as early as January and a dedicated space for the medium of choice will be allocated for storage during the making process.
  • We had a technical issue with recording reflections. Due to the sharing of the iPads across all the grades, the recordings were lost and possibly erase or mislabeled. 
  • In following years, a single iPad will be dedicated; one of more students will be assigned the task to record the reflections and share them to the supervisor’s cloud storage. One or more students will be instructed to participate in the creation of a streaming video on the process of making & student reflections.
  • Time to cut the wood prevented all the students from having the opportunity to try the saw. While a few did stay during a lunch hour to help, most was cut my the teacher. 
  • Le Lab will implement a series of safety practices on all the power and work tools in the maker space at the beginning of the school year, so that every student, if they wish to, will have the chance to use the tools. 
  • Due to Covid protocols, we decided to use small volunteer groups of students to install the mural blocks.
  • While the reflection videos were not made this year; an image stream of the making process will be set up on dedicated iPads for special occasions. We left spaces for iPads to be placed in frames on the Legacy Wall. 
  • A banner was to made with vinyl letters indicating “Legacy Wall / Mur D’Héritage” and a framed plaque was to me made to explain the installation. 
  • This will be done before the next year. 

Notes on future years:

  • The medium used to decorate the wood blocks will change year to year. It can extend beyond the two dimensional (paint, collage, drawing) to include an ongoing successful project in Le Lab: string & nail art. In time, wood burning and carving may also be incorporated as the equipment choices continues to grow with the maker space. 
  • The theme can also change from year to year to reflect current events. For example, an alternate theme for the Covid influenced school year of 2020-21 could have been “resilience”.
  • The incorporation of more reclaimed materials could be a consideration for future years to further reflect the schools values about social consciousness. 
  • Guest artists could also be brought in to Indigenous and/or cultural perspectives to be incorporated in the work. 
  • The mural could also be extended to the outside walls / fences of the school with the use of different materials. 
  • A simplified and more ephemeral version of this could be done with the kindergarten class, as the school also celebrates their graduations to numbered grades.  

Some images of the making process:     

Some images of the installation process:

Images of the Legacy Wall 2021:     

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