Walls That Teach
The eye-catching artwork that adorns the hallways throughout the Grenada Middle School — a project called Walls That Teach — is comprised of painted murals, timelines, and sculptures that reflect periods of ancient civilization from Egypt, China, and Rome to the Mississippi Choctaw and even Grenada Lake circa 1950s.
The walls are part of the middle school’s history and social studies curriculum. Students can wander the hallways listening to a guided audio tour through headphones. QR codes, posted near the murals, allow the audio to be launched from a cell phone. The audio program that explains the walls’ symbols, artistic styles, and scenes of daily life from ancient cultures.
Walls That Teach was a five-year project that started in 1996 when the district commissioned the murals. Mississippi artist Robin Whitfield, finishing her degree in art from Delta State University at the time, packed up and moved to Grenada to tackle the project.
The Walls That Teach tour starts at the west-side entrance beside the gymnasium, where a timeline mural chronicles historical events from 6,000 B.C. to 2001.
From there, the sixth grade hall depicts the hieroglyphics, artistic styles, and scenes from daily life of the ancient Egyptians. A nine-foot sculptural sarcophagus of female Pharaoh Hatshepsut stands guard at one end.
The seventh grade hall traces the ancient Chinese culture, focusing on the art, symbols, philosophy, and technological advances. The next hall, toward the library, showcases Roman murals and street scenes through the setting of Pompeii.
A mural in the cafeteria, painted later by Ginger Wolfe, portrays famous figures from the 1950s in the setting of Grenada Lake.
The last leg of the tour is through one of the school courtyards and features an outdoor environment depicting a Mississippi Choctaw village. On the site is a replica cabin, constructed by Whitfield and her student volunteers with help from actual members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
Now that it has been a part of the middle school for more than twenty years, the Walls That Teach is a part of school history itself.
GMS Assistant Principal Angela Cooley believes that having the walls as part of the middle schoolers’ daily experience teaches them about the world, even if they aren’t consciously learning.
“I think it’s a brilliant way of helping students understand the diverse culture in which society — not just the school, but society — originated,” says Cooley. “I think it helps students understand the connections between those civilizations and that in which we live.”