I write a lot about walls. Just when I think I’ve got it out of my system, something else comes along worthy of mention.
Walls, I’ll admit, are generally good. They hold up the roof. Depending on what they’re made of they may stop noise, fire or bullets. I appreciate that, but they can do so much more.
If you’ve missed my past rants, I’ll summarize: dead walls do nothing beyond being walls, meaning you can’t see through them and they convey no messages. Live walls deliver added value.
What can be added?
• Color can add flavor to a dull space.
• Multiple colors can make areas distinct, and less industrial.
• Maps, directions and arrows on walls can help with way-finding, making your school more inviting for visiting parents, new students or emergency responders.
• School rules and expectations, stated in a positive fashion, can be reinforced.
• Great quotations can inspire and instruct.
• Multi-lingual signs can boost connectivity for people who speak different languages, while promoting second language skills. (Do make sure the translations are accurate!)
• Instructional information can promote teaching, the primary purpose of your school. (Any flat surface is fair game!)
• Art can provide inspiration, sparking curiosity and imagination.
• Student art can provide both inspiration and recognition, while boosting connectivity.
• Even the most modest of frames can elevate the look of student artwork, boosting the validation that comes with having their work on display.
• Annotated student achievements, whether they be paintings, essays or awards, inspire, provide recognition and help other students understand what’s so great about those works currently on display. (A tip of the hat to Doug Lemov for suggesting this in his brilliant book, Teach Like a Champion.)
What kinds of skills marked a student as most valuable player of the year that others can emulate? How many hours a week did he work out? At what age did that great violinist start practicing, under what teacher? What made this particular story or poem stand out? Did it jump right into the action? Did it touch your heart? Did it take a risk with personal insights?
• Traveling displays can maintain curiosity and attention far more effectively than displays that become permanent fixtures. One of my visions is to have exhibits move from school to school, and community to community.
• And finally, (at least for the moment) lest you picture student art displays as pedestrian and uninspired, check out this penultimate display, highlighted by the Teaching Channel: