What was your favorite subject in school? For a large group of students, the answer is most likely art class. This subject however is usually one of the first parts of a curriculum to be cut from a school. Art is often seen as fun and helpful, but not necessary to a well-rounded education.
Henry Ford Academy in Texas has a different take on this often misunderstood and often dismissed subject. “Discover + Create = Achieve” is their tagline. It’s unfortunately not often that you see a school with a primary focus on creativity, and using that creativity to filter down into other subjects. Children are often being asked to rely on their natural creativity for problem-solving in other subjects, so why not base an education system on building and strengthening that creativity to begin with? With a deeper understanding and the right teachers, this could be the driving force behind a new and successful method to teaching.
Students love to be creative. It’s that simple. In that, they feel empowered to be able to express themselves and use this expression to know that they can make a difference in their community. For one particular project, the students at Henry Ford Academy were asked the question, “How might we develop a better carryall for someone?”
After researching and reaching out to their community, they used a design process from the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University that was adapted explicitly for use by middle and high school students. This project not only highlights art, but crosses many other disciplines as well, and has made a huge impact on its students.
One student reacted to the project by stating, “When we were designing the backpack, I learned that I can use the design process to create something that helps people in my community.” It not only helps the community, but the kids as well.
Getting students excited about education is what all parents, teachers and administration want for their children. It’s not to say that this type of program works for everyone; some students are simply not interested in art. That’s fine. However, if they are not continuously exposed to it, how are they to know which direction they want to go?
To get students to see the big picture in life is an ongoing, often unattainable goal. However, for a student to identify with a creative, short term project that positively affects the people around them, maybe their sense of why school and art is important will change.
The idea that this progressive type of learning is taking place somewhere is a lesson that should be adapted to schools in the capital region. The evidence of positive feedback from students is there; the courage to try it just needs to be taken. Let your voice be heard; reach out to your schools and take the first step to keeping the arts off of the back-burner, and into the spotlight.