MC Escher exhibit helps children learn about art and math

Published: Aug. 28, 2018 at 4:20 PM EDT
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Students in the third grade at Fletcher Elementary didn't realize their first steps through the door Tuesday would be part of their math lesson later in the afternoon taught by Principal Chris Dodge.

"So who noticed something in the hallway when you came into school this morning? Something different?" Dodge asked the children.

"Huge tapestries!" a child called out.

Those huge tapestries are a traveling exhibit of M.C. Escher's work. The Dutch artist is renowned for his brain teaser puzzles that revolve around math.

"You noticed that there were lots of staircases and there were lots of shapes put together and there were some things that were kind of upside down. And that's the kind of stuff that M.C. Escher really, really liked to do," Dodge said. "He was really interested in these shapes that all fit together perfectly."

Those are called tessellations. Students filed into the hall to see the interlocking shapes up close in Escher's work. Upside-down staircases, people and houses are enough to make anyone's head spin, let alone a class of third-graders.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: What does it do to your brain?

Will Mauck/Third-grader: It messes with my brain.

Josie Riggs/Third-grader: I was really confused.

Cat Viglienzoni: And that's the idea, right?

Josie Riggs: (Nods).

Back in the classroom, students like Mauck and Riggs were tasked with creating their own tessellations with shapes. They said that clicked.

"The different shapes actually told my mind that this can happen," Riggs said.

"When I did the stuff in the classroom, it made it look 3D. And that helped me. And then it looks really cool to me," Mauck said.

"The goal was absolutely to challenge students," Dodge said. "We see a lot of conventional artwork and a lot of the students come to us thinking the work that they produce-- whether it's art or math or science-- has to be conventional. And we want students to know that we want them to break out of that box."

Escher's work will be on display until the Sept. 7. You can see it for free during the school week, Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-4:15 p.m. or by appointment.