I AM…YOU: An Interactive Mural on Identity and Ego

**This is the first in a four-part series chronicling how our learning on our Fund for Teachers trip manifested in our classroom instruction.


In our travels this summer, one of the questions that kept popping into our minds and our conversations was “How can we get 80 kids–40 in my room and 40 in yours–to create one, cohesive mural?” With our first mural, “I AM…YOU,” we played around with several of the answers to that question. Supported by local art non-profit Art Resource Collaborative for Kids, students created a composite mural, each designing a symbol based on an aspect of their individual identities. They then painted their symbols in black over a white background to create the first mural, I AM…YOU.

The creation process took four weeks. In the first week, students learned about symbols and practiced creating their own. We had a discussion about what symbols represent Boston, students’ home countries, students’ interests, etc, and how to combine those symbols that people already recognize to create powerful new symbols that represent complex identities. In the second week, students chose the symbol that they were going to contribute to the mural and re-drew it to make it clearer and more detailed. Our teaching artist, Will, and other team members from the ARCK collaborative took all the symbols with them and collaged them together to create one piece of artwork.

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A small group of students got together between the second and third week to trace the symbols onto giant panels–that is, to scale them. Students projected the image onto the panels and traced them with permanent marker. Some students also primed the panels with whiteboard paint so that, when the symbols and phrases were added in black, the public would be able to interact with the mural by drawing on it in colorful whiteboard markers. Finally, the last two weeks students spent painting symbols onto the panels.

A few weeks later, the mural went up in the City Hall Plaza for Boston’s HUBWeek, a collaboration between The Boston Globe, Harvard University, MIT, and Massachusetts General Hospital that showcases, celebrates and convenes the most inventive minds making an impact in Boston and around the world. Our students took public transportation to downtown Boston to see their creation on display for the city. They were intrigued by all that the public had added with whiteboard marker, and added their own touches before leaving to explore HUBWeek’s other exhibits, which included life-sized board games such as Connect Four, light displays, and one booth where kids got to look at their own cheek cells in a test tube. ARCK’s display included not only our murals, but also interactive fiber artwork. Students had a great time exploring HUBWeek and meeting each other at our picnic lunch in the Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park.

**We the teachers–Kat Atkins-Pattenson and Alice Laramore–could not have possibly done this project with such integrity and skill without the support of ARCK, the Art Resource Collaborative for Kids. The members of the organization were integral to our teaching, and we thank them profusely.

**This blog post was co-written by Kat Atkins-Pattenson and Alice Laramore

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