Chumash Mural


The process of creating the mural that represents Group 5’s learning about the Chumash people began where many studies begin at Westland: on a field trip. We learned that an artist named Robert Vargas was in the process of painting a mural in downtown Los Angeles and the subject of the mural was the Native American experience in California. Group 5 was in the midst of studying the Chumash people of California and we were thrilled to be able to arrange a field trip to observe the mural in process, as well as to be able to speak to the artist first hand. Once we returned to Westland, Group 5 used this experience as a springboard to ask further questions about both their study of the Chumash and how they can represent their learning to one another and to the school community. The class chose to create a mural of their own about the Chumash.

Making a mural involves many skills that Westland students begin working on in Group 1 and continue to develop throughout their lives at the school: creativity, flexibility, small group work and cooperative problem solving. The students continued to develop these skills throughout the process, working to discover how they each fit as part of the group’s plan and what they needed to do to push themselves to do their best work. To create a project like the mural, the students had to utilize and develop their skills in a cross curricular way. For example, to plan their design for the mural, we needed to create a template that was smaller than the wall that they intended to paint the mural on but also maintain the scale so that they could translate their plan as closely as possible. To do so, they decided that their initial brainstorming sketch of the mural should be done at a 1/3 scale and their master template of the mural’s design would need to be ½ scale. Group 5 drew on their calculation skills to make two different accurate scale models. The students also used the cartographic skills they had developed when designing a map of Chumash settlements in Southern California to create a work plan that was practical and easily reproducible, deciding to use a coordinate grid throughout the process so that they could easily maintain the scale.

Creating the mural was truly a whole community, all hands on deck project, which felt very natural at Westland. The students, classroom teachers (and not just the Group 5 teachers – ALL classroom teachers at the school), specialist teachers, administrators and parents all played important roles in facilitating this project and making it a success. The work that the students put in to this project is apparent to the naked eye, as the mural shows many facets of Chumash life and culture. This clarity of vision would not have been possible without the students having a depth and breadth of knowledge about the subject. Our goal at Westland is to foster a culture where students feed their innate curiosity and truly become lifelong learners. The mural is one of many projects that a Westland student creates in their time at the school in which they show this knowledge and engagement to their learning.