I have been working with a master muralist (William Cochran) in Maryland and
his ideas go a bit beyond the ordinary. William creates participatory public
art and his ideas involve asking lots of questions prior to the creation of
William begins his artwork with conversations. The first major conversation
involved thousands of people who contributed their thoughts about "What is
community." These ideas were then developed into symbols that were imbedded
into a mural---a trompe l'oeil bridge. http://www.bridge.skyline.net/
A new artwork and conversations are now underway. This artwork has to do
with dreams and dreaming. The conversations include questions about "What do
you dream" or "What were your ancestor's dreams?"
Perhaps rather than having a pre-conceived notion of a student-made mural's
content, you might devise a few questions for the students to contemplate. A
school district in the DC area is thinking about a student-produced mural
(high school artists) and they are looking into William's process. Their
topic is crossroads and they will be thinking about how their community is a
crossroad or how they are at a crossroad.
Two of my energetic and bright pre-service students are also working with
William and his wife to develop units of study for posting to his websites.
In the meantime, you might peruse the sites for some ideas that go a step
beyond mural painting.