This week I have only one art class, so am using the time to clean up my laptop desktop a bit. I came across this picture of the mixed media Underground Railroad mural that my 2nd graders did last year in our regular classroom. Based on Jeanette Winter's book, Follow the Drinking Gourd and F. N. Monjo's, Drinking Gourd, it took several weeks to complete with children working in teams on various sections. The first team was responsible for laying in the background with tempera. They did this on a big piece of butcher paper outside (as the mural was probably about 9 or 10 feet long). Next, each child created his or her own "safe house" log cabin out of cut, notched construction paper "logs" that they assembled much like Lincoln Logs and the people who lived in it. Each safe house had a "secret symbol" to designate whether or not it was a part of the Underground Railroad. Then groups of 3 or 4 kids worked together to plan their sections of the mural and execute the collaged parts. We had a group for the plantation, one for the stars, forests, roadways, Lake Erie, etc.
One of our parents photographed the finished mural at Open House and posted it on a webpage. He and his son created it so that when you drag your mouse over certain areas of the mural pop-ups explain the significance of that spot. Soooo clever!! Here is a link to that page: http://www.interactivehank.com/docs/otherhank/FollowTheGourd.html
I would encourage classroom teachers who haven't done this recently to give thought to trying out a mural project, perhaps linking the subject matter to a social studies or literature unit. It isn't something I am likely going to be able to accomplish in our Art Studio this year, but it is such a fun learning experience for kids. I like that it interjects art into the curriculum, but even more, I love the spirit in the classroom when everyone is working together on a project like this!