Activate Activism: Planning Our Mural

This lesson gives students a chance to think about the mural genre, plan a mural and establish guidelines for their collaborative artistic work.
Grade Level

  • consolidate messages from previous lessons about artistic genres, techniques and materials that can be used for activism.
  • use collaborative skills to develop a large scale plan.
  • consider available resources and time in beginning to put the plan into action.
Essential Questions
  • What is a mural?
  • How can different artistic techniques and genres work together in one project?
  • What skills help multiple artists work together to communicate a message?

This lesson is part of the series Art and Activism.


Once students have been able to identify a message they would like to communicate collaboratively, it is important for them to understand the mural genre and have a chance to plan as a community exactly what their mural will look like. Murals are unique in that they can combine different techniques and styles, but they also require a particular set of skills so that the message remains unified. This lesson gives students a chance to think about the mural genre, plan out their mural and establish guidelines for their collaborative artistic work.


  1. Ask students, “What is a mural?” Allow them to share examples of any murals they have seen or know of. If they brought images from home, give them a chance to share. Otherwise, present them with the following images (K-2, 3-5) so that they can get a sense of what a mural might look like. As students view these images, ask them to discuss the following questions:
    •  What makes murals a unique genre?
    •  Why might a mural be a particularly good genre for expressing an activist message?
    •  What messages do these murals convey? How can you tell?
    •  What do you like/not like about these murals?
  2. Explain to students that working communally on a piece of art is a serious and important undertaking. Ask them to think about what they think might be challenging about this work, and how they might address these challenges. Using these ideas as well as your classroom rules or guidelines, come up with a list of guidelines for working collaboratively on an activist mural. Create a chart of your guidelines and have all students sign their names to the chart.
  3. For the rest of the period, allow the class to work together to plan what their mural will look like. First, they should do this by talking, and then they can switch to sketching a mock-up on a piece of chart paper. Monitor to make sure that each child has a voice in the creation of the plan and will be contributing something to the mural. When the plan is complete, ask students what was fun and what was challenging about working on that plan. 



Artists do a lot of noticing, constantly observing the world around them. Now that your students are putting their art into action, they will be looking at their own worlds with artists’ eyes. Ask them to pay particular attention to images or scenes they think might add to their mural. Before the next work period, give them a chance to share images or ideas they have noticed. They might also notice and share particular artistic styles, symbols or techniques they hope to incorporate.

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Welcome to Learning for Justice—Formerly Teaching Tolerance!

Our work has evolved in the last 30 years, from reducing prejudice to tackling systemic injustice. So we’ve chosen a new name that better reflects that evolution: Learning for Justice.

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