Teacher Josh Ault created a project for his students to help bring Texas history to life!
Taking inspiration from William Henry Huddle’s painting “The Surrender of Santa Anna,” a teacher from Dawson Middle School in Southlake, Texas encouraged his 7th grade students to create a work of art emulating the famous painting.
Ault used the project as a creative way to help his students learn about the Battle of San Jacinto and remember its importance. We spoke to Ault about how thinking outside of the box for this project helped to create a memorable learning opportunity for his students.
Q: What inspired this project?
MR. AULT: One of the most important battles of the Texas Revolution is the Battle of San Jacinto. In just 18 minutes, the Texans were able to defeat Santa Anna and his men to gain independence. The famous painting by William Henry Huddle titled “The Surrender of Santa Anna” that is displayed in the Texas State Capitol in Austin illustrates this very important event. I wanted my students to create something as large as that painting to help them remember how important this event in Texas history was, so I thought we would recreate it. I went to the fabric store and got some burlap and paint. I did the tree and I put the imagination of my students to work to create one of the people in the painting. I was not sure how it would turn out, but my vision was exactly what the students created. I know this is something in Texas history they will never forget!
Q: What were the learning goals for this project?
MR. AULT: Besides getting them to recreate an individual that was present at the Battle of San Jacinto, they also had to write an essay as if they were at the Battle of San Jacinto and explain what they witnessed on that day. It helped them make the painting come to life. My goal was to help them learn why this short battle was so important and why the fight for Texas independence was so strong for those who were participating that day.
Q: How were the students’ interest in the project furthered by the learning goals?
MR. AULT: The students really worked hard on making their individuals as close to the artist’s depictions as they could. I even had many of my students who are learning from home work on this and were able to drop them off at the school so we could add them. I think by working on such a large project, it really allowed the information we were learning to sink in, and having such a large project, it will be something they never forget.
Q: How did the kids respond to the project?
MR. AULT: The kids loved doing the mural. They worked so hard in making sure it was perfect. I have two Texas history classes, so we had two murals. Both classes did an amazing job. The day we got the hot glue gun and started to put it together was magic. They were so excited to see the final product, and when I displayed both of them in the hallway they were so proud.
Q: Why do you think the kids were so enthusiastic about this project?
MR. AULT: I think many times we do not think outside the box when we are preparing lessons. I had never done a mural project before in my six years of teaching. I always like to try new ideas to get my students excited. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they do not, but this project was a success. I think having the opportunity for each student to have a part and then seeing it come all together was a huge success. It was not perfect, but it turned out to be really cool!
Q: What makes you proud of the way the project turned out?
MR. AULT: I was very happy on how similar the two murals were to the actual painting. They are not perfect, and some of the individuals created were interesting, but overall I think it was awesome. I hope all of my students will one day get to go to the Texas State Capitol building and be able to see the real painting. I hope when they do, they will always remember what we learned in class about the Battle of San Jacinto.
Q: Overall, how do you feel this project impacted your students?
MR. AULT: The recreation of the “Surrender of Santa Anna” painting was an impactful way for my students to remember one of the most important events in Texas history. It allowed them to imagine themselves at the battle and try to feel the excitement of the Texans as they gained their independence from Mexico. They were able to use their creativity, and writing skills, to make this part of history come to life. I was so excited to see their excitement about learning this chapter in Texas history. I know it will be something they never forget.