The Language Garden Tile Mural

The Language Garden Tile Mural displays hundreds of handmade clay tiles in a mosaic of languages, colors, textures, and shapes.  Forms of nature interplay with the home-languages of our student population in a fantastic garden mural covering the northwest exterior corner wall overlooking the playground.

In recent years, nearly every student at Grout Elementary created a tile, and children at SUN Community School and Kateri Park made more. This past year was particularly active. Grout students glazed tiles, and added words to tiles from the more than 20 home-languages of our students. Look carefully, and you will see the word “sun” written in 20-plus home languages, which make up our school’s current community! We are documenting the completion of the mural here.

We celebrated the mural’s completion on Wednesday June 5th. Here are class photos in front of the mural, photos of the community celebrating, and photos of kids pointing out the tiles they made!

the origins of our project…

Ideas for this outdoor gathering space first hatched in the 2009-2010 school year.  Parents built benches and long wooden planters; barrels were donated for more plants.  Students planted peas and herbs.  Cedar stumps provided a rustic element to the seating area.  And the mural began…


Grout first grade and kindergarten students began tile-making classes.


         That year,  2nd and 3rd grade students wrote poetry. The poems were made into imaginative, winding tile verses for the mural.  Suddenly language, art, and nature became inseparable elements!



This past spring & summer

Grout students made tiles through the spring, and this summer, students at SUN Community School and Kateri Park Recreational Programs made tiles as well.


Our quest is to celebrate  the wonderful cultural diversity and creativity in our school through this art project.  More than 20 languages spoken at home by Grout students— English, Spanish, Maay-Maay, Karen, Vietnamese, Russian, Somali, Cambodian, Nepali, Swahili, Burmese, Albanian, Oromo, Amharic, Cantonese, Japanese, Lao, Telugu, Thai, French, and Malayalam — will be represented in this community artwork!  This ‘outdoor classroom’ space will also be refreshed with paint, more plants and planters, additional seating and solar lighting, making it an especially welcoming gathering area for our diverse families and visitors as well.

We plan for the mural and surrounding area improvements to be complete by spring 2013. The Grout Language Garden Tile Mural is a collaboration between Grout staff and PTA, SUN Community Schools, Kateri Park and Esperanza Court through Catholic Charities, and Portland State University Applied Linguistics Program.

 This project is made possible through grant funding provided by the City of  Portland and SE Uplift Coalition’s Neighborhood Small Grants Program, and the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation Toolbox for Education Grant.

Join us!

Want to get involved? Would you like more information?  All are invited to join an email list for volunteer opportunities and  garden projects at Grout!


Teresa Tamiyasu (Art Coordinator)

Kaia Sand (Communications and Outreach Coordinator)