A basic Wall Collections Mural can be created using only a single
color of construction paper, scissors, and pushpins. More complex
versions of the project can make use of colored paper backgrounds
or of additional colors in the symbols to signify other meanings.
A temporary Wall Collections Mural can also serve as the basis for
designing a permanent mural. (See Variation1 for an example of a
permanent outdoor mural.)
1. A clean, blank wall.
2. Construction paper--18" by 24" black construction paper.
(If available, also 24" by 36" black construction paper
is useful for creating larger forms.)
3. Pins, tacks, staples, or masking tape for mounting symbols.
4. Masking tape--for connecting pieces of paper to create larger
5. Scissors or x-acto knives and cutting mats.
6. Resource images--books, encyclopedias, magazines, Internet.
7. Level, yardstick, string.
COLLECTING OF INFORMATION
Begin by focusing students on collecting information that pertains
to the theme. This can be the result of a class discussion or the
teacher can begin with a work plan that assigns preliminary research
assignments to individuals or groups.
For the Contemporary Community Curriculum American History Mural,
we began by assigning each group a period of American history. Each
participant listed important events and themes for that time and
arrived in class with books and xeroxes to use as pictorial resources.
here to download American History Wall Collections worksheet (PDF)
Very elaborate information may be brought to the group. Large quantities
of information may result. This is good. This is the nature of our
world and the result of many people gathering information. The overall
look of the final product should suggest the complexity of the subject
However, some condensation of information is necessary. Here the
creation of symbols comes into play. A symbol is a simplified expression
of a complex idea or meaning. The information is retained, but not
immediately apparent. Such is the nature of the symbol. Symbols
can be very beautiful and complex, yet simultaneously simple and
Show students examples of successful symbolizations. Discuss the
difference between standard symbols (such as a heart meaning love)
and freshly generated symbols. Choose one or two complex concepts
and engage the class in brainstorm sketching. Have students share
their visual solutions and discuss the effectiveness of the communication.
Limitation is an important tool for creating a visually dynamic
piece. For the American History Wall Collections Mural, we requested
that all the symbols measure 24" high. The width could vary
considerably, but we wanted to create uniform rows of 24" as
an organizing device. Sometimes people dont follow this guideline.
You may wish to have participants redo symbols to a standard size
or you may be open to including more varied sizes.
It is helpful to give students xeroxes from books that show examples
of pictorial symbols and silhouettes. Dover Books publishes many
useful and inexpensive books of this sort. Heres several to
Handbook of Pictorial Symbols
by Rudolf Modley
African Designs from Traditional
Sourcesby Geoffery Williams
Design Motifs of Ancient Mexico
by Jorge Enciso
Dover Books can be ordered on-line at:
One technique that works well is to sketch the design onto the paper,
cut out, and then flip paper and use the clean side without pencil
sketching for display.
Lay out symbols. Discuss. Are there missing elements in the theme?
Are symbols clear and specific? If necessary, improve the design
of some symbols. If necessary, create additional symbols. Sometimes
it may also be necessary to do additional research at this stage.
Layout display on floor in front of the wall. Experiment with different
arrangements. Consider the meanings created by the overall collection
and organization. Consider whether the juxtaposition of certain
elements generates new or unexpected meanings.
Restructure (and possibly add new symbols) if necessary to complete
the intended meanings of the piece.
In order to have rows of images on the wall appear straight and
crisp, it helps to have temporary guidelines. Determine the height
of the bottom of each row. Attach a string to this point with a
pushpin. Stretch the string across the wall. Use a level to check
level. Attach other end of string with a pin. You have a clear guideline
for the students to use in hanging the work that can be quickly
removed at the end of the installation.
Affix images to the wall. Depending on the surface use map pins,
staples, or tape rings. It sometimes helps to use tape to temporarily
hold images in place and then when their final placement is determined
use staples or pins.
OTHER POSSIBLE THEMES:
This method can be used to investigate and make public displays
for a number of themes. Other suggested themes include explorations
of local history or a history mural focusing on a theme such as
civil rights or Mexican American history. Science themes such as
solar systems or threats to the earths ecological systems
also work well. A middle school teacher in the CCC planned to use
the format to do a mural that supported her schools health
and nutrition curriculum. The possibilities are unlimited. Consider
creating a Wall Collections Mural on a different theme each year.