Mosaics as a Public Art Project – Lesson Plan
Title: Walking on Art! A Public Art Project for Lawrence High School.
Target Audience: High School Sculpture/Ceramics I Class (grades 10-12)
Time Frame for Instruction: 15-20 1-hour class periods
This lesson will explore public art in our community and surrounding area (University of
Kansas, Lawrence, and Kansas City, Missouri) through field trips and through images. It
will examine the ways in which public art has changed since the Owatonna Project. In a
studio component students will work collaboratively to design and install an outdoor
mosaic floor in the Latin Courtyard (an area at LHS under renovation to mimic the style
of an ancient Pompeian courtyard, led by Latin classes and the Latin Club).
Public art extends the art experience to the general public. Public art reflects values and
experiences beyond the individual artist, to the larger community (our school).
Building design and floor mosaics can provide an artistic and practical way to enhance
the aesthetic experience in a school or other public building. Mosaic floors have a long
history going back to ancient Rome, and are currently popular today.
Students will visit, view, and study selected public art sites.
Students will learn about site specific installations.
Students will synthesize opinions and facts from a variety of sources to create
Students will design and install a public art project of a mosaic floor.
Large pieces of poster board for drawing designs
Drawing materials (pencils, color pencils, rulers, compasses)
Reproductions of mosaic and terrazzo art
Cement “backer” board
Glass cutting pliers
Goggles (per student)
Trays (for cutting glass on)
Large quantity of cups to hold glass pieces sorted by color
Buckets of water
Buckets to mix grout
Putty knives, corrugated tile laying trowel
Day 1: Introduce project to students with Power Point presentation. Explain the
background of the Latin Courtyard project, a project started several years ago by Latin
teacher Jason Lichte, and implemented with Latin classes, drawing and painting classes,
ceramics and sculpture classes. This class project will be designing and installing a floor
mosaic to complement the existing wall mosaics, frescoes, and other student created art
works. The courtyard is designed in the style of an ancient Roman/Pompeian courtyard.
Discuss the history of public art and make connection between public art of cities or
states and the “public art” of our school. Discuss the history of mosaics. Mosaics
became extremely popular in ancient Rome 5th century BCE. Mosaic designs were
created with pebbles or with small regularly shaped pieces of colored stone and marble,
called tesserae. The stoneware was pressed into a soft grout to hold them in place. When
the stones were firmly set, the spaces between them were also filled with cement.
Mosaics were first used as a durable, water resistant covering on floors and pavements,
and then later began to appear on walls and on fountains as decoration. Show examples
pointing out the parts.
The Latin teacher will introduce themes important in Roman history. Students will use
the internet to research images on those themes, for example animals important in Roman
Students will discuss the role of the public art commission and select “commission
members.” Members might include experts in art (an art teacher or outside artist),
experts in Roman history (a Latin teacher), members of the “public” (representative
students), officials (a principal or administrator), and others. Later, students will give a
short presentation to the “public art commission” to support their idea.
Students will take a field trip to University of Kansas Eaton Hall (School of
Engineering), Booth Family Hall of Athletics (Allen Fieldhouse), and Kansas City
International Airport (Terminals A, B, C, and the consolidated rental car plaza) to view
Students present their proposals to the “public art commission” who will vote on the best
theme for the floor mosaic.
Students will use the selected design and transfer the image to poster board using a
projector to enlarge the image. Demonstrate how to use the projector. Students will
outline the lines of the mosaic; later they will fill in shapes and colors. When they have
completed the outline they will begin to draw in the square that will represent the tesserae
(glass) piece. This will be a “rough draft” to refer to when they place their glass pieces.
Students will make different sized square or rectangular templates using a transparency
sheet. Have students select a job to do: some students will make the transparency sheets,
while some will enlarge the image.
Students will lay out the colors using color pencils. Discuss how to use shades and tints
of colors to create shading. Transfer image to concrete backer board using graphite
Students will cut glass pieces for the mosaic. Demonstrate glass cutting and safety
techniques. Students must wear goggles when cutting glass or when in proximity to
anyone cutting glass. Have students keep colors separate in different containers.
Day 10-13 (possibly a few more days depending on complexity of the design)
Students will glue pieces to the concrete backer board according to their design.
Students will apply grout to spaces between tesserae. When grout is set, students will
remove excess with damp rags.
Students present completed project to the “public art commission.” Installation will
actually be completed at the time the concrete base is poured in the courtyard. This will
probably be conducted after school or on a weekend as an extra curricular activity with
the Latin club.
Students will be graded on their individual contribution and their ability to work in a
group setting according to the rubric below. Students will prepare a PowerPoint
presentation to make to the Lawrence Schools Foundation (funding agency).
Mosaic Project Grading Rubric
Student Name___________________________Total Points___________
Craftsmanship/Techniques Self Points
Possible Evaluation Earned
20 – Students cut out even geometric shapes of Points (Student) (Teacher)
glass. Students applied glass in an even planned out
path. Grout is evenly distributed, covering all space
between the glass but not on the glass.
15 – Students shapes are mostly geometric. Glass
pieces are applied somewhat on a path but are a
little crocked. Grout is covering the whole mosaic
and only a little on the glass. 20
11 – Students shapes are crocked and application of
the glass is random. Grout does not cover the
mosaic and a lot of it is on the glass.
20 – Students carefully planned out a background
and border design that is unified and radial.
Students carefully planned out their design to
incorporate tints and hues to create the illusion of 3-
15 – Students planned a background and border 20
design. Students design incorporated a minimal
amount of tints and hues to create space.
11 – Students did not plan out the background and
border design. Students design incorporates no tints
20 – Group split up the work to make sure the
project was done at the assigned due date. Students
split up the work evenly so that each student was
working at all times. 20
15 – Group work was mostly split up and students
were working most of the time.
11 – Group work was not split up. Students were
not working most of the time.
10 – Students prepared information about their
specific image and presenting information
describing how the animal was relative to the roman
designs. Students shared the importance, meaning,
and why it was displayed in mosaics. 10
7 – Students shared some information about their
specific image. Students some information on its
importance, meaning and relevance.
5 – Students have little to no information about their
30 – Individual group member was actively
involved through out the entire process. Student
was working with tools/materials in their hands at
all times. Student contributed to the planning and
executing of the mosaic design.
21 – Student was partially participating throughout
the process. Most of the time student had tools in
their hand and was working.
15 – Student was not participating for most of the
process. Student rarely had tools/materials in their
hand. Student was working on other assignments
most of the time.
Reflection: Specifically describe your contribution to the process. What
parts did you work on? What did your group do well? What would you improve
Text of one of the wall panels at MCI
The Terrazzo Story
Pictured above: Medallions from “Polarities” by Andrew
Ginzel and Kristin Jones.
The terrazzo floor on which you are standing is part of the City of Kansas City, Missouri,
Municipal Art Commission’s One Percent for Art Program. One percent of the budget for
the KCI Terminal Improvement Project was allocated to create public art for the site.
“Polarities” is located throughout Terminals A, B and C of Kansas City International
Airport. As you walk through the terminals, take a look beneath your feet to discover a
new “world” of art!
Images courtesy of KCMAC and the City of Kansas City, Missouri, Aviation Department
Terrazzo, from the Italian word for terraces, was created several hundred years ago in
Europe when Venetian workers discovered a new use for discarded marble remnants.
Fifteenth century Venetian marble workers began to use odd-size marble pieces,
left-over from custom-made marble slabs, to surface the terraces around their living
The uneven, rough surfaces created when the marble pieces were set in clay to
anchor them convinced the workers that flattening the surface would produce a smoother
surface more comfortable for walking. And so they began to rub the surfaces with hand
stones, achieving a smooth, flat surface.
The workers soon advanced their technique for rubbing the surfaces by designing
a long handle with a weighted end to which they could fasten their rubbing stones. Now
they were able to rub the terraces in a more comfortable stand-up position, using their
body weight to provide the pressure to abrade the surface faster. This tool was named the
galera. With this crude equipment and backbreaking labor they achieved a desirable
surface but it still lacked the true marble color that only resulted when the surface was
As years passed, workers discovered that the milk from their goats brought out the
true color of the marble when applied to the surface ... and this true color was retained in
its dry condition.
Gifted craftsmen brought the terrazzo concept with them from Europe to the
Americas in the late 1700s, and terrazzo was used extensively in monumental structures.
(Our first president, George Washington, designed his Mt. Vernon home and selected
terrazzo floors for many of its rooms.)
Soon American terrazzo was being created from the wealth of marble in the
United States, and American ingenuity advanced installation techniques. This made
terrazzo materials available for all concepts of construction.
Ingenious individuals devised a method of using wood strips to divide different
colors of marble. These strips would be removed and the void would be filled with
another material. These same people learned that by adding marble dust to this material,
it resulted in various colors. Thus, they could now create designs with terrazzo.
Brass divider strips became available in the mid-1920s. In the „30s white metal
strips were developed, and during World War II, due to the essential need for metal,
plastic strips were developed. Not only were these strips designed to separate colors, but
they also played an essential role in the control of localizing shrinkage in the terrazzo
topping. Soon advanced technology gave this industry various gauges of all these strips,
resulting in the creation of elaborate and intricate patterns and designs.
In 1924 improvements on the galera concept of rubbing the terrazzo smooth led
to the development of electric grinding equipment to achieve a fine finish. The
technology of carborundum stones on a rotating head aided in advancing the grinding and
polishing procedures to the standards we see today.
After years of using gray Portland cement, white Portland cement was also
introduced into this industry, expanding the horizon of terrazzo colors with the mineral
color pigment additives. Now the spectrum of color for terrazzo was unlimited.
Today the flooring meant for kings and princes is available to everyone. From the
roots of antiquity where it served the old world, terrazzo is used by modern day
architects, designers and artists as a flooring and wall material for interior and exterior
use in the structures of our time.
Whether for the rush of thousands of feet in an airport or train station ... or for
contemplation and joy in a quiet church ... in a school planned for education of our
children ... or a hospital where footsteps can mean life itself ... the durability, versatility
and visual beauty of Terrazzo stands the test of time.
“The Terrazzo Story” reprinted courtesy of The National Terrazzo & Mosaic Association
Caption to black and white photo:
Creating terrazzo then: 19th century Italian artisans smoothed terrazzo by hand using
tools called “galeras”