IDO Helps Students Wear Their Creativity
March 22, 2007 10:38 PM
Bayardo Silva sits in front of a desktop computer in room 309 at Thurgood Marshall High School, quietly deciding what exactly he wants his T-shirt to say. He is under the watchful eye of Clarissa Soong, an SF State student, who is there to help him and his classmates find their inner design artist. He sketches out a picture of a car and tries to portray motion in the drawing by adding contours of wind that flow around it. The word he has to illustrate is “movement,” and he’s making sure it looks precisely the way he wants, since he’ll be wearing it soon.
“It would be nice to walk around and have someone say, ’that’s a nice shirt’ and be able to say ‘I made it,’” said Silva, a 17-year-old junior at Marshall.
SF State students from the Industrial Design Outreach (IDO) program are bringing art to public high schools, at a time when many art classes are disappearing. IDO is a group of 10 students from the department of design and industry who share their knowledge of the art of industrial design with high school students.
Currently, they are partnered with a class of just fewer than 20 students at Marshall, which is located in Bayview and offers no comparable classes.
The students’ current project involves designing individual T-shirts for themselves that represent one word relating to the concept of a highway. One child had “traffic” to illustrate, while another had to portray the word “path” on his shirt. The challenge was in finding what picture fit what word, as students perused numerous search engines, hunting for their ideal images.
“It kind of opens up their horizon of what they can create or be one day,” said Tera Freedman, teacher of the computer class at Marshall. “They’re really excited about the T-shirts, it’s not just a piece of paper.”
Founder Martin Linder said that IDO was started in the fall of 2003, with an aim to sharing the field of design with young students who are not normally exposed to it. The student-run group is funded by private donations solicited by Linder, including the Threat Resolution Optimization Institute and the Miranda Lux Foundation.
According to Linder, the group also wanted to introduce high school students to experiential learning, as some find it the easiest way to grasp new concepts.
“In high school nobody really knew what to do with me. Today we‘re teaching a lost group of high schoolers,” said Linder, a design and industry professor in his sixth year at SF State. “I just want them to get excited about it and feel like they’re personally interested in the process… to feel good about it, and to inspire them.”
Linder attributed a widespread lack of interest in high school learning to modern distractions and a parochial focus on teaching for test taking. By substituting experiential learning for more traditional textbook-driven learning, Linder’s hope is that local high school kids will find their artistic groove.
“These are kids with a lot of energy, and this is something that they should be getting since preschool,” said Linder. “Many seem to be uninspired … [The current system] has squelched their individuality and their originality.”
“I myself value experiential learning. It sort of helps kids learn that were essentially me, but years ago,” said Soong, a 22-year-old senior. “It was the art that kept me focused and out of trouble.”
Though certainly not all Marshall students enrolled in Computer Art II are finding trouble, even less are finding a pathway to futures in industrial design, that is, until IDO started the multi-week T-shirt project in their classroom and exposed them to a creative outlet and possible career path.
“A lot of these kids do aspire to go to college,” said Soong. “The access just isn’t always there.”
Schools selected for IDO’s involvement lack their own design instruction, largely due to recent cutbacks in funding for arts and music programs. Marshall, which Freedman described as “a sort of dumping ground” for students that get booted from other city high schools, gladly embraced IDO’s participation.
“It’s more fun than other stuff we were doing before,” said 15-year-old freshman Vincent Chew. “It’s not really work if you enjoy it.”
“This class is more relaxed and you get to be more creative,” Silva chimed in.
The works of IDO are community-directed, and are only possible through the time and effort donated by SF State students. Balancing IDO with classes, jobs and a few hours of sleep each night is no small task for the patient volunteers.
“You wish that you could give so much more, and it takes flexibility,” said Michelle Steed, student director of IDO. “We have to sort of give our own class time. But it’s inspiring, we’re just trying to be mentors.”
The students at Thurgood Marshall High School have recognized the opportunity to unleash their creativity and take home something tangible from their experience with IDO.
When asked about what he plans to do with his T-shirt when it’s finished, Chew responded quickly and excitedly.
“Wear it until it doesn’t fit me anymore!”
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