Professional Practice

8 Art Room Mysteries All Art Teachers Want to Solve

mysteries of the art room

The art room is a mystifying place! Messes and art supplies mysteriously appear or move. Sinks clog without cause. Pencils break and new rolls of paper towels disappear. No one’s owning up to it, so there might be an art room ghost! On a more serious note, there is probably a more rational explanation. With all of these curious occurrences in the art room, there are a lot of puzzles for art teachers to solve.

Let’s get out our magnifying glasses and take a closer look at eight common art room mysteries!

mysteries of the art room

1. How is there STILL glitter everywhere?

You used glitter for a project two weeks ago and you thought you thoroughly swept up every speck. In spite of this, you’re still finding glitter on the floor, on the chairs, and even a piece or two on your face at the end of the day! You can vacuum the floors and wipe the tables, but there’s no answer to how it keeps coming back. Next time, try out these strategies for containing the glitter!


2. How long have I been walking around like this?

It’s the end of the day and you finally get a bathroom break! You look in the mirror, and to your horror, you see a streak of orange paint, a few specks of glitter in your hair, and dried clay on your pant leg! The mystery isn’t really how it all got there. The mystery is why no one bothered to tell you! You had lunch with coworkers, an after-school meeting, and your principal passed you in the hallway earlier. Not one person told you your clothes looked like a Jackson Pollock canvas!

Is it because you’re expected to wear art supplies as a part of your wardrobe when you’re the art teacher? Do coworkers and students want to save you from embarrassment by not pointing it out? Do they secretly have a bet going on about how many art supplies you can get on your face by the end of the day? I guess we’ll never know!

3. Who left the dirty palette and dead paintbrush in the sink?

Here’s a mystery no one wants to fess up to! There’s an ooey-gooey paint-filled palette in the sink. When you ask the class who left it there, they look at you with innocent eyes and claim, “It wasn’t me!” When threats of dusting for fingerprints don’t sway their claims of innocence, it might be time to wave the white flag and come up with a better sink management system.

paint on palette in sink

4. What’s that smell?

Sometimes the smell goes beyond the general odor of middle schoolers after gym class. Every once in a while, you have to ask yourself if the body odor smell is getting worse or if something is rotting. Time to follow your nose to find the source of the mystery smell! When you find it, you may wish you never did. It could be rotting food shoved to the back of a shelf or expired tempera paint. It might be a job for a nose plug and some disposable gloves but your classroom will smell much better after you’ve solved this mystery!

5. Whose artwork is this?

Ah, the age-old no-name mystery! How many times will art teachers have to solve this one? If there was only one artwork without a name, we could easily do a process of elimination. But what if there are multiple no-namers? It’s time to put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and start analyzing! Will you solve the mystery with a handwriting or artistic style analysis? Will you resort to simply asking the class? The real mystery is when no one claims the artwork. Why is someone okay with a zero in the grade book when they did the project? Teachers may never solve this mystery!

stop is your name on that sign

6. Where did the art supplies go?

You started out the year with a beautifully organized and labeled classroom. Everything had a place, and everything was in place! You’re not alone if supplies slowly start to disappear. Did someone come in and take them when you weren’t there? Sometimes they reappear in different areas of the classroom and other times you decide they must have sprouted legs and walked out!

7. How is the glue disappearing so fast?

The jugs of glue you bought just a couple of months ago are emptying at an alarming rate. Why are students using up so much glue? You might solve the mystery by catching students as they spread layers of glue on their hands. While you can’t really blame students for giving in to the satisfaction of peeling dried glue from their hands, it’s not the best use of art supplies. What’s worse is when you find fresh glue sticks detached from their containers or left without caps on. It had so much life left but it was cut off prematurely! Who would do such a thing? Since none of the students admit to it, it must have been the art room ghost! While you’re hunting for the guilty ghost, give students some other creative ideas for using glue.

spilled glue

8. Who is stealing all of the artwork?

Students sometimes take one glance around the room, and if they can’t find their artwork, they claim it was stolen! You bite your tongue and refrain from saying their pieces wouldn’t be lost if they had simply put them where they are supposed to go. Instead, you turn to investigative mode! Where did they have it last? Did they put it on the drying rack? Did they stick it in the wrong portfolio? You can usually find the “stolen” artwork in a matter of minutes, much to the surprise of the students! If you need more tips on how to organize and manage classroom supplies, watch the Artfully Organized mini-series on YouTube.

Mysteries run rampant in the art room. Glitter and dirty palettes materialize out of thin air. Art supplies attach themselves to you without anyone (including yourself!) knowing how long they’ve been there. Inexplicable smells occasionally permeate the atmosphere. Glue, other art supplies, and artwork—vanish. As the art teacher, you’re tasked with solving these puzzles to keep the art studio clean, organized, and conducive to learning. Fortunately, the artmaking process has honed your critical thinking skills and these mysteries are no match for your deductions. A detective hat is one of many hats you have to wear as an art teacher and you wear it well!

What is your biggest art room mystery?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Chelsea Solano

Chelsea Solano, a secondary art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She is passionate about choice-based art education, fiber arts, and amplifying students’ voices in the classroom.

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