The Grenada Middle School has developed an innovative new teaching strategy using the arts-an idea to use the walls of a building facility to teach the student. As a result of this concept, a partnership between business, artists, school district parent groups, and the Mississippi Arts Commission has created the "Walls That Teach" learning environment . "Walls that Teach" has produced a teaching work of art that describes world events and takes the students on a journey combining art, technology, and history.
The project communicates the idea that the school is a "time machine" equipped with a graphic time line, swirling graphics, and a number countdown inlaid in the floor tiles. This project serves as an interactive teaching tool that has been the basis of county-wide teacher inservice and a motivation technique for student creative writing activities, historical studies, and research.
After traveling past the timeline that extends form 6,000 B.C. to the present, the "time machine" takes the students to the first stop-the fifties! Students are surrounded with a mural, painted by artist Ginger Wolfe, depicting a myriad of famous personalities from this era, all of them portrayed in the environment of the local Grenada Lake.
The next hallway, Egypt, features a nine-foot sculptural sarcophagus, map, and murals depicting life in Egypt. The artist, Robin Whitfield, stated, "The Egyptian section contains design elements, hieroglyphics, and murals depicting the major styles of Egyptian art. The walls of the halls are used, as well as the floor tiles, to provide a total learning environment for the middle school students."
China is featured in the next hall, showing dragons, warriors, and visual explorations into Chinese science, architecture, math, philosophy, and art. Engaging math puzzles, swirling dragon images, and Chinese painting techniques are integral parts of the journey through China. Asian tile designs are embedded in the floor down the hallway, uniting the entire environment.
An outdoor environment has been created to simulate a Choctaw Indian ecosystem in a wetlands area. A flowing, bubbling stream with native plants, frogs, and fish has been created to depict a Mississippi Choctaw homestead. The homestead contains an authentic cypress log cabin chinked with clay, straw and wood ashes with cedar shingles for the roof.
The "Walls" project has received three grants from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a BellSouth Regional Grant and Teacher Grant, Wal-Mart grants, and honored with a grant from the National Geographic Society Education Foundation. The "Walls" project received an Award for Excellence from the Public Education Forum of Mississippi, recognized at Mississippi History Day with the 1998 Mississippi Junior Historical Society Community Service Award, and was a featured exhibit at the 1998 and 2001 National School Board Convention in San Francisco. The "Walls that Teach" project won two awards at BellSouth's Learning Alive Teachers Conference in Atlanta (Best Overall Showcase Grant and Most Unusual Classroom Project)and was also honored as the recipient of the 2005 School District Program Award by the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education.
This ambitious endeavor was made possible by a collaboration between many groups:
-The Mississippi Arts Commission provided funds to pay artists for the Fifties Cafeteria, the China Hall, the Timeline Hall, and the Roman Hall.
-The National Geographic Society Educational Foundation provided a grant to produce an outdoor wetlands environment depicting a Choctaw Indian Homestead.
-Artist Robin Whitfield has created, over a five-year period, the impressive hallway designs and graphics. Robin sculpted the Egyptian sarcophagus, designed, researched, and painted the timeline and time machine, created the content-filled Egypt, China, and Roman halls and the Choctaw Homestead and ecosystem. Robin's attention to artistic detail and historical accuracy are evident in every square inch of the Grenada Middle School spaces.
-The Grenada County Extension Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. National Resources Conservation Service combined resources to build the flowing, wetlands stream in the Choctaw Indian Homestead area.
-Binswanger Mirror Company contributed mirrors and glass for the graphics.
-Phillips Building Supply provided the paint for the timeline hallway graphics.
-Parents for Public Schools helped to paint the hall graphics and sponsored a fund-raising event, "Egypt Day".
-P.T.O. Organization of Grenada Middle School provided partial funds for the Egyptian murals and provided refreshments for the Fifties Open House. (Guests to the Open House were invited to dress in fifties garb and participate in hula hoop contests!)
-Local artist Ginger Wolfe painted the mural depicting the 1950's in the cafeteria.
-Grenada School District provided the funds and labor to produce the inlaid tile floors, frame and install mirrors and timelines, install new ceilings on each hallway and to lay concrete for the riverbed in the Homestead area.
-BellSouth Pioneers provided fiber optic cabling for a computer demonstration during the Open House.
-Wal-Mart provided partial funding for the development of the Egyptian hall and has donated funds to expand the Choctaw Homestead and Mississippi Ecosystem.
-Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians provided resources, research, and craftsmen to develop the Choctaw Homestead
-Grenada Middle School art students helped to paint the hallway graphics in the Timeline Hallway, the Egyptian Hallway, and the China Hallway. Students also brought sandstone rocks for the outdoor environment's wetlands stream.
-Assistant teachers of Grenada Elementary donated time to paint murals for the Roman Hallway. Recorded audio is available from Grenada Middle School Library to offer a walking tour of the Walls project.