5 murals in 7 days, well it was a tough call, but we did it! 5 murals painted, 4 of them story book murals with a stylised tree on one ‘page’ and a poem pertinent to the season, on the facing page. The last and most ambitious, a world map mural measuring 4m by 2m, literally brimming with educational and fun things for the children to find.
The storybook murals have proved to be an immediate hit, I have spent some time discussing how the staff will use the schools’s murals from an educational perspective. There is of course the obvious, in pointing out letters, rhymes, adjectives etc. on a large scale. I watched with interest, one teaching assistant take her charge around looking for the letter ‘t’. Whist there are plenty of smaller ones around on signs, covers of books and the like, to have some text, large and blatant, is very helpful. But more importantly, is that the children can see that you don’t have to draw a tree, for it to look like a tree. That the shape and form of an object can be suggested through colour and form. There is no doubt that the pictures are trees, but they are all very different and only one actually shows a leaf. So not only are these murals objects of beauty around the school, but they offer real educational values.
However, when it comes to educational value, the map of the world is in a league of it’s own. In my day, (I sound like a granny now!), we were taught geography, now that is all part of ‘humanities’, geography gets lost in a mixture of other, equally valuable subjects. The irony is that the world is a smaller place now than it have ever been. We can share pictures from anywhere in the world at the touch of a button and our children will travel more and further than our grandparents could even dream of. The thought that these children will not have the same knowledge of the world around us is a sad one to me. But I guarantee that Oaklands Primary School children will have a greater knowledge than many of their contemporaries, they have a large, visual reminder of the world that they walk past every single day.
The way that I paint means that I painted the sea around the larger land masses, then the large land masses, and lastly, the islands. This means that it was a good day into the painting, and still there was no UK on the map. Asking the children where I should paint it produced some interesting answers!…my favourite being somewhere between Borneo and Sumatra. We then added on some geographical ‘big items’. Cities, rivers, deserts, mountains, lakes, volcanoes and rain forests. We then added on animals and items synonymous with the areas. Things that the children would pick up on and recognise, such as a panda in China, penguins on Antarctica and a boomerang in Australia. And lastly, some random pictures that the teachers or children requested, such as a rugby player in South Africa, pictures of places of interest, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris and of course, pictures that fit into the subjects taught in the curriculum, including the pyramids in Egypt and a Viking Long boat racing across the North Sea. But what makes this school mural special, and why it work for this school is that we made it personal. Oaklands is twinned with a primary school in Kano in Nigeria, and we painted this school onto the mural, including the name of the school. And the compass points fan out from a circle containing the logo of the school. A reminder of the school’s commitment to their project.
Oaklands are a very special school, their understanding of and commitment to the importance in providing a space that children find interesting and stimulating, is outstanding, and I am sure they will reap the benefits going forward. From the introduction of the fish tanks (which regular readers of this blog will be pleased to know that Bruce moved for me on Monday afternoon,) to the fantastic displays that the staff and children put together to the murals that they now have, Oaklands is way ahead of many primary schools.
If anyone has even the smallest shadow of a doubt as to the magical effect that murals have in a school, they should come and spend a day with me when I am painting in one. The feedback from the children, and all the staff, from the Head to the cleaners, is just wonderful and makes my already great job, unbelievably awesome. There is a reason that great artists have painted murals and frescoes in public places, a reason that political activists have used murals to voice their political opinions for hundreds of years, and that is because they work. They make people stop and take notice, they are awe-inspiring and isn’t that what we want in our schools? For our children to stop looking down at a screen and look up to see the rest of the world, to take notice of it, and be inspired by it.
If you want to find out more about the offer that we have for schools until April 2012, click here