When you were five, nothing was better than going to school with a new box of crayons. When Jonathan Wallis starts new semesters, he breaks out a big roll of white paper. It’s his new favorite new teaching tool.
“I have been using it in all of my classes this semester, and it has been the most amazing innovation in terms of learning,” he said.
Wallis is associate professor of Art History and Curatorial Studies.
“What I love to do is to provide a case study and then hand it over to the students, and put a big piece of paper up on the wall, break them out into different groups, give them a whole bunch of colored markers and a prompt,” he said. “It’s amazing to see what can happen.”
Last fall, the students in Wallis’ Art as Social Practice class used large sheets of paper to map out strategies for two projects designed to foster social engagement in the Moore community.
One group used a paper roll for its project called Moore M.E.E.T. (Moore Enjoying Everyone’s Trades). Part of the initiative involved displaying large paper silhouettes of human figures on a wall near Moore’s Art Shop. The paper cut-outs represented each of the majors at Moore. Students from all classes were encouraged to anonymously write their raw opinions about each discipline in an attempt to break down stereotypes.
The other class group set up what they called Exchange Moore, where items such as clothing and food were swapped one-for-one as an exercise in networking and connecting with different types of people.
“The students being able to experience working through the process of conceiving, planning, strategizing, then executing – and then reflecting on that – is really effective,” Wallis said. “They’re able to take that back into the classroom, and perform the learning either themselves, or amongst themselves in a group.”
Wallis said the paper roll was an effective tool in building a dialogue and community among the students.
“They work together, and they’re talking through ideas and they’re mapping visually what they’re doing on the paper,” he said. “It’s wonderful, and it’s worked to really help solidify a lot of the things that we’ve covered in class.”
Stepping back to watch the interplay as students worked on their projects was very gratifying, Wallis said.
“I think that my role as an educator is to provide information, critical tools, skills and, most importantly, problems,” he said. “I always say, if I’m not talking, I’m doing my job very well.”