Our Story, Our Change: Intermediate Students’ Mural Connects Big Ideas of Historical and Personal Change

“Our Story, Our Change,” a collaborative mural by the students of UCLA Lab School’s Rooms 1 and 2, was created as part of an inquiry project linking social studies, poetry and reflection on personal growth. Materials: Acrylic paint, ink, paper, watercolor, mixed media, gold leaf and oil pastel on canvas

What makes California the Golden State? When Abby asked this question in the fall I knew it was going to be a question that we could come back to throughout the year. I knew it would connect to the story of California we wanted to explore in social studies with our Intermediate students (equivalent of grades 3 and 4). What I didn’t anticipate was how the idea of “gold” would also connect to the story of our own class. The idea of digging deeper and sifting through different perspectives or challenges became part of the language of our class. The idea of finding gems in each other’s thinking, recognizing the worth and value of moments together, and uncovering new understandings or connections drove our investigations and conversations.

We used the big idea of “Waves of Change” as a through-line that connected all subject areas.

“I feel like change comes in waves. So it’s not all at once, it’s waves gradually coming and going. Like sometimes we break barriers, not at once, but separately sometimes.” – Van

At the same time, our class was also participating in a research project on documentation. Students reflected on: “Why do we document?”, “What do we document?”, “What tools do we use to document?” and  “How do we document?”

They became reflective about relationships and interactions on the yard, started making movies of projects we were doing in class and used their sketchbooks as their primary source for observation, research and reflection.

As they practiced documenting, they shared what they were thinking, finding more and more gems in their work and in the work of their peers.

Students also were making many connections between our study of California history and their own lives and how they would feel if they were in the situation of the person or people we were studying.

“I feel like there are two kinds of change. There is the kind of change that is slow, like when your brother is growing and you don’t even notice it, like gradual change. And then there is a really fast change, like an earthquake or something that you have to get used to very quick. That is what it must have felt like for the Chumash when the explorers came.” – Sasha

When we asked what type of projects we could do to document our learning, it was very clear we couldn’t leave out our own personal interests and connections. Students created timelines to represent their understandings of California history, planned an amalgamation of research about an era in the history of California, published poetry for the 8th Annual Sketchbook Poetry Magazine and decided to make a mural.

The mural evolved into telling our story through our “gems” that we uncovered on our journey together throughout the year.

The Meaning of our Mural

The students wrote descriptions about the images and words in our mural:

mural detail hands of movement

Hands of Movement: The hands of movement represent when we put our ideas into action and create a positive wave of fire and water that flows through all of us as a bond friendship. There are hands on each panel. They are all different colors to represent the diversity of our class.

House of Patterns: This house shows that something so small can hold a lot of patterns. Also each window has its own patterns, like each person has their own personality, also looking through different window lenses can change your perspective.

mural detail waves of change

Waves of Change: We put waves to symbolize the change in life and the waves are also new knowledge. Sometimes waves crash hard and change things quickly. Sometimes waves just gently change the shore, a little bit at a time.

The Door of Questions: The “door of questions” symbolizes going beyond, taking risks and trying new things. On the path of the door there are colorful symbols that represent learning, ideas and new questions. There are also cracks and bumps in the road that we all have to overcome.

The Gears of Collaborations: The gears represent function and how working together can create new opportunities and lead to breakthroughs. The gears represent one gear can turn the other, like people working together and supporting one another. When we work together we can move mountains.

The Learning Foundation: The learning foundation represents that mistakes are part of learning.

Our Constitution: The constitution on the mural represents what we believe, what we want our class to be and live by. We cut it up to show that together we can make something big.

Looking through Different Lenses: We made this camera with the puzzle pieces in the lenses for people to know that all our ideas are one big thought.

Choose Your Path: Your path is the way you want to learn and live. To unlock your true self in your own special way. Choose your own way of kindness.

The Boat: There are many paths to choose from. There are bumps in the road and waves that rock us or move us. We should remember that we are all in the same boat and that our actions can impact others.

Clock of Change: This clock shows how much we can change over time. It also shows that change can be fast or slow, also over time there can be change.

Bob, Mr. Multiple Perspectives: Bob is a man who sees different things from different perspectives. He is made up of words. His mustache even has our class motto on it. Bob enjoys taking in knowledge.

Waves of Change Glasses: The waves of change glasses represent our learning through different perspectives and lenses through patterns, movements, function, and action. Of how our class operates.

Dig Deeper: Dig deeper and find gems and gold in our learning and help other people find their gems. There is treasure in our thoughts and all around us. We need to practice looking for the beauty around us and to dig deeper to understand our world.

Finding Hidden Gems: This represents finding the secret meaning. The miners are digging to find the secret meaning. Eureka means more than just discovering a treasure or our state motto, it means noticing new ideas and inventing new things to help our community.

True Colors: The pallet represents how we all chose our colors to “paint our canvas” (our choices to impact our life). It also symbolizes how we all have different qualities/colors in ourselves, and that we just need to show them.

Our Palette: This palette represents our friends and how different friendships can mix like colors. Like painting your true self.

Different Stories: We all have different stories in some way. It might be a little different, like someone likes vanilla ice cream and someone likes chocolate. All I’m saying is we have a difference in the same way but the differences are always unique. Look inside to see the stories.

Music: The quote “We’ve Got The Music In Us” comes from the song “I’ve Got The Music In Me.” We study lyrics and think about what they mean to us. This quote also means that we all have different voices/perspectives and we shouldn’t be afraid to use them. This quote also represents how we all follow our own song/path. And stay true to that music. This is the song we danced to at Together Through Music and Dance.

Clouds: The clouds represent different perspectives because there are different things. We reused the print blocks from our Andy Warhol animal prints to make the clouds.

The Tree: The tree represents nature and growth. It symbolizes how we changed and grew throughout the year. We grew stronger and more mindful. We supported each other as we grew. The words on the roots — integrity, risks, choices, and curiosity — are things that help us all grow. It is also sitting on some waves and patterns with Chumash art we saw at San Fernando Mission.

The Power of Working Together: If we push through things together you can help others. The power of working together can change our learning and it has done it this year.

We Can Move Mountains: We studied the lyrics of the Andra Day song, We Will Rise. The song is about believing in yourself and about helping out people who need friends. The figure with the gold leaf heart moving the mountain is in the style of Keith Haring.  The diamond inside the mountain represents hidden gems that we can still discover.

The Golden Gate Bridge: This is about getting over challenges, going across the water and moving on with our year. It is also represents how when we have something hard, we can overcome it by moving on and flowing with our year. The cables are the supports, holding us up so we can go with the flow.

California through the Ages: This image represents how California has been changing since the time of the Native Americans all the way to 2017. The multiple Californias show how California has changed, the people, the economy, the land, the government, and the culture.

The Magnifying Glass: The magnifying glass represents looking at things closely and observing. The eye inside is like a kaleidoscope. It can also be a dream catcher. The arms coming out from it are the connections we make as we learn. We find ways to make connections between all the subjects we learn. This is in the center of our mural because we make connections to things we have learned in the past and to our future.

The Sailboat: The boat has pencils on the bottom and sails of papers. It shows how we have grown as writers and used metaphor and symbolism to write poetry. Our poetry magazine, “The Sketchbook,” is another way we dig deeper. The boat goes up and down on the waves, just like we have good days and bad days.

“Innovation and Inspiration” and Blast into Learning: This is about a rocket having inspiration to innovate and go above and beyond. Why we made it? The reason why the rocket ship was to represent this year and how our learning pushed us up into space (our goals). We’ve really changed from the beginning of the year to now. I would hope that you pushed, got pushed into space this year. How we made it = we used David Hockey pictures to inspire our drawings. Also Rooms 1 and 2 all made their own drawing that got collaborated into the mural. We used pastel to make details look sharp.

A Culmination of Our Work and Student Reflections

The mural was a culmination of our year, our community, our research, and our learning. The students’ growth and the depth of their thinking is reflected in their comments at the end of the process:

“If you let your feelings out, they will bloom into something beautiful.” – Jackson

“Everything can be looked at through different lenses.” – Aryadini

“Go back in time to learn someone else’s perspective before you aim anger at someone.” – Sasha

“Sometimes the hardest thing to do is believe in yourself.” – Quinlan

“In life, there has to be some ups and some downs.” – Laura

“Seek out the power of a little thing, because little things can carry big meaning.” – Mia

“Everyone goes through life at their own pace.” – Oona

“Big curiosity for the world can get you many places.” – Charlie

“Learn to be yourself no matter what.” – Colton