Is this for school or for real?

It's funny how the same hallways and school displays I walk by every day catch my attention when something small changes. (Has this ever happened to you?!)

Recently, I noticed our Grizzly Gallery had been updated with some new student artwork. However, instead of updating all the frames with art from different students, the frames featured a single student's art collection.

I have to say, it was really inspiring to see a large collection of art from the same student. The pages from her sketchbook, full-color prints, and a photograph of the artist made the exhibit more of an experience than seeing a single work of art. It also felt very authentic -- almost as if the display wasn't "for school." (I'm still trying to wrap my head around what this means and why it gave me that impression).

My favorite part of the exhibit was how it celebrated the design process and learner. For example, an artist's statement was placed in the middle of the collection alongside several pages from the student's sketchbooks. This created an immersive story that helped me connect to her work on a different level.

All of this has me wondering what parts of school resonate most with learners (young and old)? If there are parts of this incredible space that I tend to walk by without fully appreciating...perhaps our students might be doing the same.

If this is the case, how might we make more of the routines, displays, work, and pedagogy "for real" to the learners we serve?

Looking forward to your thoughts and pushback on this, as I'm obviously still learning here too.

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Dr. Brad Gustafson is an elementary principal, author, and speaker. He believes schools can be spaces where creativity and innovation thrive, but only when we prioritize relationships and a relevant, connected pedagogy. 


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