Teachers create historical wall art to inspire students

HISTORY IN ART. Seventh grade social studies teachers Chris Carr and David Flanary painted
historical figures on an outside school wall.

Rayna Welsch

HISTORY IN ART. Seventh grade social studies teachers Chris Carr and David Flanary painted historical figures on an outside school wall.

Rayna Welsch

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Students walking down the hallway have begun to notice strange paintings on the outside wall near David Flanary’s classroom. He decided to put some art on the blank wall outside of his classroom windows that relate to the topics of his history class.

Chris Carr and David Flanary, both history teachers, created the art together.

“Mr. Flanary actually came up with the idea, and approached me with it,” Carr said. “I thought it was a great idea; especially since all students can see the murals as they pass down the hall.”

Flanary had been teaching in a classroom without windows to the outside for about eight years. When the chance to move to room 329 and get some natural light into his classroom came along, he was thrilled.

“There is, however, a brick wall outside of my classroom windows, so it wasn’t much of a view,” Flanary said. “I thought if I painted something about history on the wall, it might be more interesting to look at.”

Flanary and Carr created this artwork using only very simple materials found in most any local store. They searched the internet for images related to the World History curriculum, and chose the pictures based on subjects students are normally interested in. Then, they borrowed a projector to shine the images on the wall. They traced the outline in chalk and filled the rest in with black paint.

There were some issues with this process.

“The window did not open all the way, so we had to figure out how to squeeze through a very tight space,” Flanary said. “Mr. Carr decided to go head-first, whereas I went feet first through the window. Both methods had their fair share of problems. We probably looked ridiculous.”

The first time they tried to shine the projector images on the wall, the sunlight was too bright, so they had to come back in the evening, after the sun started to set.

Students, overall, seemed to like the art.

“It’s great,” Ashley Nichols, a seventh grade student, said. “I like how it all ties into the lessons.”

Some of students’ favorite paintings were the rat, which symbolizes the outbreak of the bubonic plague, and Joan of Arc. It has not been a distraction for students, but instead a fun way to experience the lessons through art.

“I’ve heard several students talking in the halls about the paintings,” Carr said. “Most are trying to figure out what each one is, including the topics we haven’t covered yet. I have also had students in class realize what a silhouette is as we learn about it. It is really exciting when they make that connection on their own.”

Sevier principal Holly Flora was also very supportive of the idea.

“I checked with Dr. Flora to make sure it would be okay,” Flanary said. “I’m fairly certain she contacted somebody at the Administrative Support Center to make sure we were not violating some kind of rules by paining part of the outside wall. Dr. Flora was super-supportive and thought it was a great idea.”

Mackenzie Dickinson, a seventh grade student, believes art should be a bigger part of classes.

“I think it would be cool or fun if, for getting a grade or a test, you get to draw something related to what we have learned, but not necessarily on the wall,” she said.

The art has helped students get more involved with the topics, so they can slowly connect the pictures to a topic they are learning about in class.

“I absolutely would recommend this to any teacher with a blank wall,” Carr said. “It not only ‘spices’ up a blank and boring space, but it also helps reinforce curriculum in a fun and unusual way.”

Flanary has been particularly pleased with the support the two of them received.

“It seems like we are constantly coming up with ideas and projects to get students more interested in what they are learning about at Sevier,” Flanary said. “I love that our principals are so willing to support whatever ideas we come up with. There’s a lot of opportunity to try new things at Sevier.”

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