Honors English 10 students find deeper meaning through transcendentalist-inspired ceiling tiles


Kiera Kemppainen

Some of the many ceiling tiles decorating Mr. George’s room, including Addi’s and Tori’s.

Sophomore Alexa Fauson found herself browsing the aisles of Home Depot for a ceiling tile similar to the ones in school.

Alexa had taken a ceiling tile home from Honors English 10 teacher Ken George’s room for the transcendentalism project. The point of creating a ceiling tile was for students to show their knowledge of transcendentalism and to have an enjoyable time creating it. George wanted his students to show what they know by thinking like a transcendentalist and completing a variety of small projects—like painting the ceiling tiles. There were many other mini-projects for students to participate in, but painting a ceiling tile was chosen by lots of students. 

Alexa decided to undertake painting a ceiling tile for the transcendentalism project; she didn’t expect to have her tile crumble into little pieces.  

“If you’re getting a ceiling tile, make sure [Mr. George] gets you a new one and throws away the old ones,” Alexa said. “When he brought mine down, I spray painted it and brought it inside [my house]. I set it on its side and it cracked in half because it was so old. I had to go to the store and buy a new one. Good thing they’re at Home Depot.”

Alexa now comes home to two random ceiling tiles that she has no use for. The tiles came in packs of three, and she intends on giving the other two to George so future students won’t face the same issue she had. 

I think it’s so important to never lose our child-like sense of wonder, and it’s especially important in the classroom

— Tori Emerson

This was only one of the difficulties that one could face within this project. And while Alexa didn’t let a broken ceiling tile stop her from finishing the project, it wasn’t the only problem students ran into.

Sophomore Tori Emerson also painted a ceiling tile. While hers may not have broken, she still found it to be somewhat of a hassle in certain aspects. 

“Trying new mediums [was hard for me],” Tori said. “I enjoyed it, but it was still difficult. It took me a while to get used to mixing colors, and I really had to trust the process the whole time. It was so new to me. There were definitely times when I doubted whether the painting would turn out how I pictured it.”

Learning to use new mediums can be difficult for anyone, especially on a new surface. Although it was a bit of a learning curve for Tori, it was ultimately an enjoyable experience.

Tori knew that her hard work was worth it. To complement the quote she chose, Tori painted her tile with a human eye. She wanted to make it embody simplicity, a core principle of transcendentalism. 

“The quote I chose talks about how over time, we can become blind to the beautiful world around us,” Tori said. “We no longer notice things that would have amazed us as kids. I think it’s so important to never lose our child-like sense of wonder, and it’s especially important in the classroom.”

Tori chose a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson to paint on her ceiling tile: “The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and heart of the child.” Tori desired for her painting to be meaningful while inspiring others, much like the tiles from last year’s Honors English 10 students inspire her and her peers. 

While taking Honors English 10 last year, junior Addi Bunnell made the first of these influential ceiling decorations. Addi didn’t expect her painted tile to become such a big part of this project, and she didn’t expect to be the first tile in George’s room either.

“[George] had brought it up before and I figured that other kids had started to do them,” Addi said. “I grabbed one and [George] was like, ‘Yep, you’re the only one who’s done one.’ I was shocked because it seemed like the [type of] class where kids would want to do that. When I started to do it and finished, a lot of people were like, ‘Oh wait, that seems kind of fun.’ I feel like that’s when other people started to do it because they saw how I did mine and that I actually enjoyed doing it. It wasn’t a chore to do, it was more of a fun extra thing.”

Whether Addi anticipated it or not, her quote by Henry David Thoreau, “I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees,” inspired George to make it a part of this project and also provide the opportunity of painting a tile to other students. She feels rewarded by the inspiration her tile gave to people wondering if they should do the project.

Alexa is excited for her tile to give the same motivation that Addi’s does. Alexa chose a quote by Emerson because of its address of perseverance: “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” 

She loves seeing her tile above her every day and hopes that it, and many others, will inspire future classes of FHC.

“It’s really worth it to see your art on the ceiling and know it’s there and that you did that,” Alexa said. “It’s a good accomplishment too. Mr. George is always proud of your work, so he’s always going to keep it up there.”