Sure, they learned about art and poetry and symbols.
But at the end of the school day, the kids at A.C. Moore Elementary were just having fun Tuesday - hanging out with their buddies, getting their hands dirty and putting in place bright, shiny mosaics.
After months of planning, the project is almost done.
It creates a new and memorable entrance to the school, along Columbia's Etiwan Avenue, featuring a fountain, a walkway of steppingstones and large benches, all decorated in colorful tiles.
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"It has a very magical element to it," said Mary Bull, who lives down the street from the school.
Each of the 387 students at A.C. Moore made a stepping stone designed to reflect something important to him or her.
Olivia Moran, 10, wanted to portray her love of nature and animals.
Rese Lenhard, 7, her family.
And Benjamin Eidson, 10, an interest in Greek mythology.
The project brought in an element of creative writing, too.
"I think it's cool," Benjamin said as his classmates glued bits of broken ceramic to the fountain.
"It will always give us a memory about the school."
The idea grew out of discussions between art teacher Randall Clamp and Karen Heid, an education professor at USC.
A group of Heid's students got involved, each of them "buddying up" with one of the youngsters as they supervised the project.
Grants and donations covered all the costs.
This past weekend, the neighborhood joined in. Because the project was a little behind schedule, 20 families spent Saturday afternoon placing the stepping stones in the walkway.
When the children arrived at school Monday morning, their work was on display.
Clamp, the art teacher, said he has been gratified by the involvement of parents and community members.
And he is hoping the experience might fuel a lifelong interest in art among his creative kids.
"This is why I wanted to be an educator," he said, surveying the all-ages crew of students and volunteers.
"I wanted to reach out to these kids and give them something they could use the rest of their lives. I don't want to make them all artists, but I want them to appreciate art.
"It just makes the world a better place."