Welcome to the Fertile Ground Education Project!


In this section:

About the Project
What’s included in the Curriculum?
How do I use the Curriculum?
Note to Teachers about Inquiry Approach
Note to Teachers about Web Links
What is Arts Integration?

About the Project:

In early 2009 the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts Partnered with the University Of Nebraska at Omaha’s Center for Innovation in Arts Education to develop art integrated education curriculum in conjunction with the Omaha Mural Project Fertile Ground. The creation of internationally acclaimed artist Meg Saligman is the largest public art project in the history of the city of Omaha and currently the largest singly funded mural in the nation. It tells the story of Omaha’s past, present, and future featuring historical references and present-day communities.

As stewards of the completed mural, the Bemis Center has recognized the immense potential for this grand visual narrative to enhance broad based education, inspire the way we think about community, and demonstrate the value of arts integration.

What’s included in the Curriculum?


Fertile Ground Classroom Poster

High-resolution posters (24″ x 48″) are available for FREE upon request. Poster curriculum includes discussion questions and covers such topics as About the Artist, About the Site, Medium and Process, Vocabulary, Content and Interpretation, and Interdisciplinary Connections. This overview curriculum is intended to give teachers and individuals the general tools they need to understand, discuss and incorporate the mural into their existing educational framework.

To request a poster email info@bemiscenter.org. 


Unit 1: The People who make up the Community and their Actions
Lesson 1: Fertile Ground explores the connections among oral, written and visual storytelling.

Lesson 2: Fertile Ground portrays the roles of people in the community.

Unit 2: The Environment in which a Community Exists
Lesson 1: Fertile Ground describes the physical environment in which the community exists.

Lesson 2: Fertile Ground interprets the symbolic environment in which the community exists.

Unit 3: Presentation of Narrative to the Community.
Lesson 1: Fertile Ground draws upon a rich history of mural making across time and place.

Lesson 2: Fertile Ground makes use of both traditional and innovative techniques and materials.

*Lessons and activities address topics of art and art history, language arts, history, civic engagement, philanthropy, research, archiving, geography, biology, architecture, chemistry, math, ecology, and stewardship.


An extensive video interview with Meg Saligman was conducted in 2009 capturing the artist’s personal perspective on her development, research, and creative process. One introductory 10-minute video has been edited to illuminate the question, What does it take to create a 32,500 sq ft mural?

Public Art

How do I use the Curriculum?

Although units and lesson plans build off of one another and support sequential use, teachers may also consider selecting individual lessons based on topics or activities that enhance existing classroom lessons and curriculum. Each lesson plan includes a lesson narrative to assist teachers in preparing for lessons and activities including background information, resource web links, discussion questions, suggested materials, and assessment strategies. See Note to Teacher about Inquiry Approach and Web Links below.

Click here to search lesson plans by Activities.

Note to Teachers about Inquiry Approach:

The inquiry approach used in the Fertile Ground lessons is designed to allow students to carefully observe works of art, make connections to their own prior knowledge, and respond to questions before they have been given specific information by the teacher. The lesson narratives are structured in a sequence to lead teachers and students through this process. The information stated after discussion questions is meant to be introduced by the teacher after the students have had a chance to observe the images and discuss the questions themselves. It is always a good idea for the teacher to ask the students to refer back to the work of art to support their ideas.

Note to Teachers about Web Links:

Each lesson plan provides web links to images and additional resources to facilitate lesson planning and the inquiry approach. The Bemis Center will make all efforts to review and update these links regularly. However, due to the dynamic nature of the world wide web, if a link does not successfully lead to the intended image or resource, it is recommended that teachers conduct their own web search OR substitute images and resources readily available, familiar to the teacher, or that support connection to other lessons or images introduced to the class.

What is Arts Integration?

Arts Integration is an experiential approach to teaching the arts in conjunction with broad based subjects. It is a methodology that not only accommodates different learning styles including linguistic, visual, and kinesthetic thinking; it allows students to synthesize new relationships between perceptions and ideas, create experiential connections to content, develop complex thinking skills through a process of discovery which allows for unexpected outcomes, and in return become more flexible and innovative thinkers equipped for evolving 21st Century demands.