Ancient Greece Mural Project


Capping off the 6th grade promotion festivities was the reveal of the annual 6th grade mural. This year we chose to do Ancient Greece, with many student’s incorporating mythological creatures into their tile creations. The students studied Ancient Greece in their homeroom classes, brainstormed tile ideas and eventually deciding on a single item to design into their clay tile. I helped the kids isolate the image in order to draw it on a square piece of paper. Some kids worked on individual tiles, while others teamed up to make a larger collection of tiles.

The tiles are cut from slabs of terracotta clay and the students transformed the clay to create our tiles. To save time and to take advantage of the sgraffito technique, we painted our underglaze directly onto the greenware. This is sometimes difficult as kids have a tendency to leave many fingerprints. But that’s easily remedied with later touch-ups.

Every year the 6th grade class creates a ceramic tile mural as a gift to the school. It’s really a beautiful legacy that the children leave and a beautiful reminder of their elementary school days.

Our district supermen, Mike and Frank, did an excellent job of mounting the mural in seriously record time (perhaps a few hours before promotion?) and I video taped their entire process.

I want to congratulate all my sixth grade students for completing this wonderful legacy to our special school.

A Helmet and a Cyclops are featured below. Notice how well the students worked their clay pieces to resemble their original drawings. I especially like the Cyclops teeth–each tooth is a small piece of clay. The clay will lighten somewhat after the first firing.

Parent helpers add the “purple” glaze which will be fired to create a shiny, glass finish on the mural tiles. This step can be done by the kids but it helps to have some parents around to ensure that the bottoms of the tiles are free of glaze (so it doesn’t stick to the kiln shelf).

There are many steps to this type of project but it’s very doable, even for the novice ceramics or art teacher. I was lucky to be an assistant to a fabulous ceramics teacher for my first few murals.


What do you think?

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  • Jen

    Really lovely!!

    • Wojtek

      Dear Teachers!
      I’m so impressed! Its a brilliant idea and really fantastic job! Congratulations!
      I’m art teacher as well and really appreciate your work! Best Regards from Gdansk upon the Baltic Sea 🙂

  • Cheryl Trowbridge

    Wonderful mural! Well done, 6th graders!!

  • Pat

    Very nice! I wish you would film the entire process from start to finish! I would buy it on DVD!

  • Ana

    WOW!!!! Beautiful!

  • Ashley @ TheHillHangout

    I have linked to this post in an upcoming blog post on summer art projects for kiddos. I’d love your permission to use the mural photo as well. (We are definitely doing this project at home in the fall when we start ancient history. Thanks for the idea!)

  • Jessica

    Patty- I just love these murals- They always turn out so great, I am just amazed.

    • Patty

      The kids do exceptional work and the murals are getting more and more complicated and beautiful. I’m so proud of my kiddos!

  • Janet

    I would love to do a ceramic tile mural project with my 4th grade. Do you think that it’s possible/manageable to a project like this already in 4th grade?
    Thanks for your help!
    Best wishes,

  • jeansrosebuds@yahoo.com

    We do not have a kiln. Can air dry clay be used for a project such as this? I love these ceramic murals!

    • Patty Palmer

      No, I don’t think so. The kiln creates very hard, durable tiles and air dry clay might not achieve this. Even with sealer, I would be skeptical. To be sure, you can ask a tile guy at a hardware or ceramic specialty store in your area. It would depend on what type of air dry clay you use, whether it’s an indoor or outdoor mural and what type of sealer.
      Great question!

  • lynn Noun

    Amazing mural. How long did it take without the installation? My 5th graders are expecting me to do clay with them which I love! But, I don’t think I have enough time.

    • Patty Palmer

      Hi Lynn,
      Making the tiles with the kids require about 90 minutes. This includes building the tile from a clay tile and clay bits to painting the wet tile with underglaze. I detail the whole process in my ebook: https://www.deepspacesparkle.com/shop/ceramic-mural-project/
      The project is extensive but oh so worth it! This will be my tenth year doing a mural.

  • bonadies22@gmail.com

    my 6th grade classes are just starting Ancient Greece. I do not have a kiln – but i can get terracotta air dry clay – is it possible to still do this project with that kind of clay? any other ideas for this unit that does not require a great deal of materials – we are low.

    • patty.palmer@deepspacesparkle.com

      It’s not possible to do a permanent mural with anything but ceramic clay BUT you can still have fun with the project and have students create individual tiles. They won’t last but the process is still great. Good luck!

  • Melissa Licata

    This is a beautiful project! Wondering if you would mind sharing what you mounted the tiles to (and with what adhesive). Also…what size tile do you find works best?

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