Explore, Discover, Play, Create

When grade 2 teachers took a pre-planning expedition to Clarkston, GA, they visited a mural in Adam’s Plaza created by Shannon Willow titled “Human Family Forest.” The mural, a collection of large trees with trunks filled with words and surrounded by animals, was a collaboration between Willis and members of the community who came together to help inspire and create the work. Upon visiting the mural, the grade Team 2 knew immediately that they wanted their students to create a Mount Vernon family forest.

“The students were thrilled to travel to Clarkston, GA on an expedition to see the original artwork and create a work of art about their own school community,” says teacher Molly Hudson. “As we walked around the mural and took notes and observations about the artwork, many questions came up:

  • ‘Where did the artist get the words from?
  • Why are there animals in the picture? 
  • Who painted it?’

Students were also surprised about the diversity in the city of Clarkston and how many people helped create the mural.”

After their visit to Clarkston, students began to follow up on those questions to understand the meaning behind Willis’ collaboration with the Clarkston community. By exploring animal symbolism, students were able to understand the context behind the imagery that gave the mural visual meaning to accompany the words. To give the Mount Vernon mural a theme, students interviewed students from the Early Preschool through grade 12 (as well as staff and faculty) with the question, “What does it mean to be made in MV?” The words were recorded and charted. Once all interviews were concluded, students were amazed by the different answers to just the one question. Prototypes of what the MV Family Forest could look like were created and three finalists were selected, after which, the students developed a plan of action for their mural and set to work.

What our Mural Means

Grade 2 visits the Human Family Forest mural in Clarkston, GA.

Visual thinking routines help pool ideas together.


We chose an owl to put on our mural because owls can see what others can’t and at MV we look for details. Owls are also wise, and at MV we are growing knowledge

– Emma


Our school’s mascot is a mustang, so we had to put them on our community mural. Mustangs represent swiftness and strength. We have one mustang for each school at Mount Vernon. 


We chose an eagle to put on our mural because they represent creators, teachers, loyalty, integrity and a spiritual connection to the great divine – God. These are all qualities we aspire to at Mount Vernon. 


What’s next for the Made in MV Wall

The next phase of the mural is to extend the MV Family Forest by adding more leaves (words) from different people at Mount Vernon and guests who have visited.

The Inspiration

Mount Vernon’s Human Family Tree project was inspired by the work of artist Shannon Willow. Clarkston city officials as well as over 100 volunteers from the local community came together to paint the exterior wall of Christ Community AME Church. According to Willis in an interview for the DeKalb Fee Press, “The idea is to bring people together, collaborate, foster fun and friendship, and make people aware of the environment and putting Mother Nature at the foreground.”

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