In their own write
In fact you could find graffiti just about anywhere in my school. We would write on the toilet cubicle walls, and we would sketch and doodle in our text books. This was terribly bad behaviour I know, but that's what kids did. We drew on things. We made cartoons. We experimented with rude words. I doubt that little has changed, and that the same still happens in many schools today.
Why is it that children love to draw on surfaces? Is it to try out new ideas or simply to make a personal statement? It would be great if these were the only reasons, but it's equally likely that the kids are really bored, or want to show off. It's also possible that some children just want to leave their mark on surfaces because they share the mindset of urban graffiti artists who attempt to place their 'tags' in as many places across a city as they can - a kind of game. Some school graffiti might be the result of disaffected children who want to 'get their own back' somehow. Each of these is a possible explanation, but what if children simply need somewhere to express their thinking? What if they have so much creativity inside them screaming to get out, it just has to be unleashed somewhere, and the desk is the closest available space?
Wouldn't it be wonderful if children could draw anywhere and express their creativity on any surface? And what might they learn if those drawings were non-permanent but could still be stored somewhere?
Several years ago I visited a college where I saw a room made entirely of dry-wipe boards. Students could write on the walls and the doors, and then they could be wiped off (the walls and doors, not the students). On my travels I have seen many other versions of this idea, and now I'm also beginning to see dry-wipe desks (such as those in this picture) appearing in classrooms. It's a simple idea that can be so effective.
When children sit at their desks in these schools, they are positively encouraged to write on their desks. The constraints on their creativity are being removed. It will one day be common to see children working out mathematics problems on their desktops, or drawing diagrams to explain a science experiment. They will be able to capture and share their work using their mobile phones, and connect their ideas together digitally. Perhaps their desks will one day be fully connected and interactive, like the tabletop surface technologies that have been available in large format for several years. Offering children a space upon which they can experiment, create, collaborate or solve problems and where the writing is non-permanent but storable would be a great way of unleashing new potential.
Photos by Steve Wheeler
In their own write by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.