If Our Walls Could Talk, What Would They Say About What We Value?

We do so many great things at our school. Nobody will ever work a day at Mayfield and say they are bored. Our inspiration from the kids, autonomy from our administrators and our annual traditions keep us regularly on our toes and continuing to grow our teaching practices.  I don’t know about you, but I left my MEC meeting feeling reminded of how joyful I feel to be a part of this special community of educators. Having said this, I would like to spend a minute talking about something that our school could work on: what and how we display on the walls.

Last week I attended the Deeper Learning Conference at High Tech High in San Diego. I wish I could truly put into words what it feels like to walk in the doors of the High Tech High schools. You can tell immediately that they value deeper learning, process, reflection, and community. You know just from looking at the walls and ceilings that they give their students opportunities to do and create amazing things.

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At Deeper Learning, I had the opportunity to attend a Deep Dive eight-hour session called Curating Student Work.  The presenter was the superintendent of a rural public school in Kentucky who is doing some incredible work in this area. I have some key take aways from this experience and hopefully with this post you will see some examples of ways we can express our values more clearly and more professionally.

Before you create an exhibit, make sure it connects to one of our goals

Here’s the thing. There are some student work worth curating and some that are just not. When we take a minute to think and reflect about work we choose to display, we also have the opportunity to reflect on the work we assign.

All displays should follow these three rules:

symmetry          repetition        surprising

Here is an example of this and a cool project idea from HTH: Each document is framed and students made laser cut sunglasses for final reflections! My favorite part is it is writing about empathy in math class!

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Take away the barriers of bulletin boards

The fadeless paper that inevitably fades mixed with the cheesy bulletin board borders limit us to space and size. It also sends the clear message to the kids that they are not making real or authentic work, but “kid work.”  And, no, this space should not be to hang cheesy posters.

There are simple ways to make this happen. Using curtain rods, clips and wire, clip boards, driftwood backgrounds, shelving you can make all student work, even work in progress, look professional and improve the standard of what you expect from the kids. These structures will also make hanging work simple and reusable and allow for more displays on the wall!

Here are some examples from HTH:

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Use the laser cutter or other creative materials to make titles

It looks so much more like a professional exhibit when you take the time (with the help of Adrienne! 🙂  And guess what! You can reuse them! Here are some examples from HTH:

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Make a placard to explain the project and process

A simple framed piece of paper that explains the project, grade level and a bit of the process it took to create allows the community to have a better understanding of the work that went into the creations. Here are some examples from HTH:

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Get help!

This is a huge undertaking. These schools have had help from the art teacher who is partly hired to design these exhibits. Some have even hired part time curators. We are definitely not there….yet. 🙂 But know that there are people to help you. This is a perfect assignment for that artistic parent volunteer. There are also incredibly creative artists who are here to give you ideas. Penny and Peggy have been inspirational for me and have great ideas to share. Sara C., our resident weaver, is beyond creative and is so amazing at thinking outside of the box. Adrienne can help with the laser cutter and has quite the design aesthetic as an experienced graphic designer. While I cannot say that I am artistically inclined, I am beyond willing to get my hands dirty to help you along the way.

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