The 7th grade student, scanning a book, called out to her classmates, “Is anyone sitting on Frida?” Immediately a dozen pairs of eyes examined the classroom stools. “I am” came the reply. “What do you want to know?” The subject of interest was the painter Frida Kahlo and the student was studying how her life impacted her work.
However bizarre this exchange may sound, it is actually commonplace for my students. In our art studio, every stool is painted to show a representation of work by a master artist along with important biographical bullet points. Truly, my students, whether in 1st grade or 8th grade learn ‘by the seat of their pants!’ Even parents drop by to do this kind of “research!”
When I first decorated the stools, I did it because it would be attractive and novel. I never expected that my efforts would be rewarded so soundly by an increase in student awareness, knowledge, and curiosity. I cannot explain why these decorated stools have translated into intense student learning. In fact, I cannot even say that I ever really see the kids doing anything other than sitting on them! Yet, year after year, the interest remains high.