Building a Beloved Community

This winter, our Music and Art Specialists led us in a school-wide collaboration focused on building community connections during a very isolating time. To begin, each classroom had the opportunity to read read the book The Last Stop on Market Street (written by Matt de La Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson), paired with the song What a Wonderful World whose lyrics mirror the observations made in the book.

We used timing of this collaboration to highlight the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and the work he did to create a more wonderful world. We highlighted his service to create strong and caring communities, and invited families to join us in an act of service to our own community. Families were invited to pick up a pack of hand warmers to distribute to area bus stops on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Back at school, each classroom was invited to collaborate on a mural in the entrance of our building. Each class was given specific materials and a particular prompt to complete as part of the mural process.

Collaging. Some classrooms were presented with loose parts to explore the different shape elements of houses and buildings. These collaged buildings prompted conversation and observation about houses, buildings and neighborhoods and are displayed as part of our larger beloved community installation.

“These are the windows and the door, and the gray blocks are the bricks. And the rest is all the stuff inside.”

Wooden houses. Some classes were offered blank 3D wooden houses to design using oil pastels and watercolor. 

There are so many incredible details to see and stories behind these buildings- there are libraries, co-ops, butterfly observatories, dog houses, car repair shops, PSA and even some familiar faces peeking out of windows!

When the wooden houses were complete, the children were placed their building as part of the neighborhood on the wall.

Painting. Inspired by the colors and shapes from the book’s illustrations, the skyline of our neighborhood began to take shape! Children from many classrooms worked together to fill in shapes that had been taped off as a guide.

But, what are we missing? A community isn’t only buildings, so as our mural was forming, we had some classes come out and think about the things we needed to add to make it our community. The children suggested things like gardens, cars, signs, mailboxes (and Target). This list helped inform the custom elements the other classes later added.

Printing. The school-aged classrooms worked to create custom items for the community. Each child carved their design into a styrofoam printing plate and then printed the image onto paper.

After the prints were complete, the children were invited to glue their paper print directly to the wall to create a secondary layer to the mural. These prints reflect so beautifully the line work and ideas of the children and make the mural feel like a mirror of the individuals that make up our community.

Finally, the school aged children helped create bold black outlines for the buildings as well as adding the MLK quote about community to the wall.

After many weeks of collaborative work, the mural is complete! Over the course of a week, each class was invited to come to the piazza for a special unveiling celebration. As part of the celebration, we listened to Hey, Wall, a story about a community transforming a blank wall in their neighborhood into a colorful mural that represented them. Then we talked about what each classroom did to help create the mural to represent our school. Finally after a drumroll and a “tada!”, the sheet covering our mural was pulled back to reveal the fantastic masterpiece! 

“This is the most beautiful mural I’ve ever seen!” 

“Let us live together in peace and love in a beloved community.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

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