The miracle of chalkboard paintings

How teachers’ chalkboard paintings at Rosma Waldorf School in South Estonia inspire kids to explore the world.

Teachers' chalkboard paintings that introduce children to subjects are a beautiful form of ephemeral art, just like buddhist sand mandalas.

Photographer Kaido Kaasa, who has spent three years photographing chalkboard paintings, admits that hunting for masterpieces created by teachers became kind of a sport-like hobby for him after he discovered that these remarkable works of art often disappeared before he could capture them.

“When I heard that there was a new drawing in some classroom, I went on another trip around the schoolhouse after the lessons were over and visited all classrooms,” said Kaasa. As a parent of Rosma Waldorf School, South Estonia, he decided to capture this short-lived art. “It often happened that I found an empty chalkboard from which a masterpiece had just been erased. Such a pity.”

This unique transient beauty characteristic of Buddhist sand mandalas is created in this Waldorf school in the course of day-to-day teaching to inspire kids to explore the world. Teachers use chalk to draw thematic pictures that help them tell a visual story and introduce kids to their subject in a memorable way, while also drawing links between different disciplines. But chalkboard painting as a teaching tool is such an everyday activity for teachers that they often do not see their new drawing as something special and erase it after the lesson although it would be worth recording.

Photographing chalkboard paintings is complicated both timewise and technically, Kaasa says. The drawing process sometimes lasts longer, for example the drawings for geography lessons start from contours and are grown in detail as the teacher tells a visual story for several weeks. “The most special thing about it is the devotion of teachers, and how they communicate with kids while drawing on chalkboards,” Kaasa adds. “A picture is created gradually, smoothly, and slowly. Each dash is drawn with devotion, and storytelling drawing as a teaching method works.”

This content is provided for the National Geographic Magazine Estonia (April 2021).

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