Making a Mess to Make a Mosaic


“And you know, sometimes we make a mess when we make art, and that is okay!” Mr. Guzmán told the crowd of eager second-graders gathered before him.

Soon the students were working busily at their tables, crayons scratching away against paper cutout squares. The students were working on creating a symbol of community. More specifically, they were choosing one of the core values of Lodestar (social justice, love, agency, community, or integrity) and creating a visual drawing of it using crayons and paper.

The next few minutes involved the sounds of students whispering as they worked, and the soft scratching of crayons against paper as the students added layer after layer of crayon wax onto their project squares.

Some students drew hearts to symbolize love and caring for one another, while others drew flowers, and still others drew abstract patterns that, in their view, symbolized one or another of the values they were illustrating. One important goal at this stage was to completely cover the paper square before them in crayon wax.




The next step of the project, however, took some students by surprise. Suddenly, Mr. Guzmán asked them to crumple up  the drawings they had worked so hard to create!


Of course, this was being done with a purpose: only by crumpling up the wax drawings could they create indentations and spaces between wax layers, which would allow ink to settle into certain areas (but not others) of the paper squares.


At this point, however, students were  only aware of the fact that the drawings they had worked so hard on were now looking something like this:










Just as the students were starting to look really upset , the newly-crumpled drawings were exposed to another (seeming) insult: a thick coat of dark-blue ink was applied to the outside surface of each drawing. Mr. Guzmán showed  the first student in how to do this.
Afterwards, students performed this work in pairs:


The next part of the project was the only one not led by students. This stage involved washing the dark blue ink off of projects under running water, with the idea that the ink would stick to the paper, but not to the wax.  


However, holding the paper squares under running water made the project squares extremely fragile. As a result, Mr. Guzmán actually completed this particular project stage  for the students. Carefully, he washed each ink-and-wax-covered square under running water, making sure  to support the wet paper squares and prevent the pressure of running water from ripping a hole in any of the projects.


Students watched this stage of the process with great interest.


Finally, the finished project pieces were set out to dry, and the students began the seemingly extremely long wait until their projects were dry.

Thus, the students learned that sometimes destruction and messiness (i.e., crumpling up a crayon drawing they had worked hard on) can lead to exciting, brand-new creations coming to life.

Part of the hope we have for these students is that this is a lesson students will carry with them as they proceed through other classes at Lodestar and beyond, and continue crafting creations that require several drafts before they are complete (i.e., computer science programs where additional features are being added to an original program, essay drafts, etc).

In a sense, we see this same period of “creative destruction” within the entire maker movement in education. While the maker movement is turning some long-held educational norms upside down, the goal is certainly not the destruction of current educational thinking. Rather, the idea is that by doing some things differently, we will be able to make space for something even more beautiful (in this case, an education in which students exercise agency to take a lead in their own learning, and eventually, in changing the world around them).

These ideas were put into practice in a very concrete way during the students’ work on this project, where the students were asked to make some drastic changes to a piece of art they had been working hard on. While the students initially worried that they were being asked to destroy their own creations, they ultimately saw that the changes they had made resulted in more authentic, interesting, and beautiful works of art.