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What an awesome opportunity for you! I have done large scale works of art a number of ways. Sometimes I have a clear vision of the project and I just come up with the theme or image and the students just are there to paint it. Other times I gave the kids a theme and for one class period we had a poster contest where they individually came up with a drawing based on the theme. At the end I had anonymous online voting and the winning design got scanned to my computer and enlarged via document camera/LCD projector. You will have to decide how hands on you personally want to be in the planning stages of the mural. As far as paint management, it also depends on the location of the mural. I'd say if it is painted directly on a wall elsewhere in the school I would suggest after transferring the design to the wall via image projection, allowing small groups of students to come in during recess or lunch to paint a little at a time. On the other hand, I have had groups of 3-4 students paint for 2-5 minutes at a time in the back of my classroom while the rest of the class worked on their regular art project. This, obviously, only works if the mural is painted on a large sheet of masonite, large stretched canvas, or mural paper and can be moved to the final location later. Let me know if you need further help.
I have done several murals with students and even whole grade levels. What I found works best for me is to do them on canvases and screw the canvases together. That way the murals are portable, can be stored in the summer time and can be moved if the wall comes down in the future. My first few years as an art teacher I partnered with the AP class from the HS...the kids worked together designing a beautiful mural. It was really cool. Several years later that wall was torn down to enlarge the library. It was such a bummer.
Also, the mural can be worked on in the classroom during the regularly scheduled art time. The only extra time I spent was putting it together...no long hours after school monitoring students who become super silly at the end of the day.
I have painted murals with students before and can share what we have done. Perhaps that will give you some ideas and options...
Two years ago grades 9-12 art students worked on a mural for the Spanish room using four 4x8 feet panels on masonite. The content covered Spanish and Mexican culture. Those were done in acrylic and I put a seal on them. The smaller panel is 2 1/2ft x 2 1/2ft in small mosaic tile.
Last year an independent study senior student created a mural for the elementary side of the library. It covers three walls that are 18ft tall. She painted directly on the cement brick wall using latex indoor paint. We were able to get a few other students to help paint as well. We painted 8 hour days for 2 1/2 weeks after school got out for the summer. The content is about notable characters in elementary literature. I think I have some photos on my page through this site. Fifth grade last year did a small mural in acrylic of a Starry Night. The masonite sheet used was cut into smaller pieces that were put together after being painted. All students had to collaborate which was great! Kindergarten worked on a Kandinsky like mural in the same process. All of these murals are throughout the school.
This year... oh boy! Nothing like having a full plate and yet hungary for more! Ha! There are three going on at once. My Art III students have been commissioned by the library in our town to paint a mural for the small child section. Those will be on two 4x8 foot masonite panels. Art II (mostly grade10) are working on one in the main hall of the school. I send them in groups of 2 or 3 to work while the rest of the class works on independent projects. I run it more like an independent study class where each student has an emphasis in one area. At the end of the period the class and I go see the progress done during the period. This is working good. The last one is grade 3. We are discussing low relief sculpture. I have taken cardboard tubes of all sizes and cut them in various sizes. Students used gesso to prep some smaller pieces of masonite. There will be 6 in all. Students are working in groups of 3 to construct their sculpture using a strong adhesive that dries clear. Tomorrow grade 3 will use textured spray paint to make them look like stone. They are very abstract and the kids are very excited to say the least!
I hope that your project is going well!