Liberating the Imagination
If you would like to experience the joy of observing students fully engaged, eager to learn new knowledge and practice skills, and bursting with unbridled curiosity, creativity and enthusiasm, then stop by Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn and ask permission to visit the latest addition to the Fine Arts Department, namely, the Graphic Design and Photography Lab. The course curriculum’s goals, objectives and learning outcomes easily envelopes all six components of the Professional Teaching Standards.
In an overview, students are expected to create a portfolio of artwork relevant to the graphic design field. They are taken step-by-step through the tools of Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign and learn how to apply their newfound art to everyday life. (See Graphic Design Student Outline, written by Instructor, Michelle Brohm.)
Michelle Brohm, a proud graduate of the School of Visual Arts, created the program with Administration’s approval and support, to inform students of the possibilities for advancement in the art world and to prepare those who choose to enter the field where art and technology meet.
The following conversation further reveals the far-reaching, school-based experiences that this unique teaching practice brings to the school community-at-large and to individual students and staff.
Q: Ms. Brohm, your students have created so many high-quality projects in a relatively short period of time (mid-semester).
It is evident to everyone that sees their portfolios that your lab is overflowing with graphic design and photography of all varieties. Did you anticipate this explosion of talent and student authenticity?
I knew Boys and Girls High School would have talented artistic students, however I didn't anticipate the incredible amount of talent in technical skills. These students have grown up with technology, it is a way of life for them, and they teach me new technical skills everyday. The students have shown an intense interest in this class. I hear students in the hallway all the time saying, "Wow, how do I get enrolled in that class?" Technology and art are exceptional avenues to teach high school students any subject, because you already have their attention and you can tailor each project to their personal life. I think sometimes they are having so much fun, they forget they are actually learning.
Q: How have your students contributed to their 2009 yearbook design for the graduating class?
My photography classes and the yearbook class have been very excited about taking candid shots inside and outside the school grounds. One of the student projects is a photo scavenger hunt where they have to take a list of photos as an assignment. Those photos make up the majority of the inside pages of the yearbook as well as the cover. A few of the students, with a little guidance, primarily design the pages. Two students collaborated to come up with the cover design concept. Another group of students have been working on scanning and retouching baby pictures, which makes up an entire section of the book. There only are a few opportunities to capture the wonder and memories of each school year and it is phenomenal that the students are the ones who achieve it.
Q: I know that you often answer questions that students have about career opportunities in the fields of graphic design and photography. Do you think any of your gifted students will actively pursue this goal?
Absolutely! I can think of some students right away who want a career in the field and it is only the beginning of this program. The way the program is designed they will graduate their senior year with four years of art and design before they start in the workforce or post-secondary education giving them a leg up on the competition. There are many career paths in the art world where the students could gain employment such as a graphic designer, digital photographer, web designer, art director, creative director and advertising to name a few. Other relevant fields graphic design could act as bases for are: fashion design, jewelry design, industrial design or interior design and many more.
Q: I’m sure many of your fellow teachers would like to tap into their undiscovered, design capabilities. Are you considering the prospect of extending professional development to your colleagues?
Definitely, my colleagues come to me daily with collaboration ideas to enhance student learning. I think some of these ideas are a brilliant way to incorporate art with other subjects. Students learn in different capacities, there are many varied learning styles. One avenue to channel a student’s learning potentials is through visual learning. These teenagers need to see the teacher's body language and facial expression to fully understand the content of a lesson. They may think in pictures and learn best from visual displays including: diagrams, illustrated textbooks, Smartboard demonstrations, videos, flipcharts and handouts. And it increases student attendance. I am currently working on three collaboration ideas with the English Department, the Science Department and another with parents on Saturdays in a scrap booking class. I am also attending professional development sessions to stay up-to-date on digital media. You have to; it changes so quickly. I would be honored to share everything I have learned with my colleagues on professional development days, when the opportunity presents itself.
Many thanks, Ms.Brohm, for taking the time out of your very demanding schedule to expand knowledge and awareness about your professional responsibilities. In promoting graphic “sketchbooks of life” from its earliest conception, you have encouraged art appreciation and created excitement throughout your entire school community. Your expertise is well-appreciated.
See ==> Standards ==> Graphic Design Student Outline ==> Student Work (pdf file)
Engaging and Supporting Students in Learning. Creating and Maintaining Effective Environments for Student Learning. Developing as a Professional Educator. The Professional Teaching Standards. New Teacher Center at The University of California, Santa Cruz, 2004.
Many thanks to the students, staff, and administration of:
Boys and Girls High School, Brooklyn, NY
Spencer D.A. Holder, Principal
Christopher Smith, AP Organization
Do you have a comment, question, or suggestion about this article? E-mail Sharon.