by Chuck Ekstedt • ELCA Director of Fine Arts
“I think it’s exciting to see students showing up before class and staying late after school to work on projects. That’s how students indicate you are on the right track”.
~Middle School Art Teacher, Rachel Williams
Eighth grade students Matthew Johnson and Caleb Booth were involved in the assembly of the art department’s first 3D printer and also worked to create the first successful print.
We are moving headlong and with unprecedented speed into the Information Age. When it comes to teaching, our primary sources of content are no longer found within textbooks, and our primary means of distributing information is no longer lectures. We are now, instead, teaching students how to use a vast array of mediums in order to learn on their own. No longer is learning limited to what we know, but it is dependent on how we find the information and how we use this information quickly, creatively, and cooperatively. We are no longer a society based on our ability to memorize data. The retrieval and storage of information is the domain of computers. So it is imperative that we place a newfound value on what cannot be technologized; things like creativity, emotion, expression, interpretation, presentation and beauty. Our students need to possess genuine people skills, be problem-solvers, demonstrate creativity, be masters of presentation and pioneers of creative interactions. As teachers we need to offer more comprehensive learning about the things that will best serve our students as they race headlong into a radical new future defined by unending terabytes of information. School needs to be a place where things like creativity, contribution, cooperation, fairness, flexibility, imagination, integrity, and good old fashioned wonder, rule the day.
That is why a robust fine arts program is integral in any institution serious about developing students that are ready for the future. The study of fine arts brings with it awareness, creativity, cultural exposure, emotional expression, increased self-esteem, and strong social interaction skills. This is why education and experience in the fine arts is not something that should be done on a random and short term basis or built on fleeting artistic encounters. It takes years of training and practice in order to fine-tune the human brain to reap all of the benefits that come from a long and personal experience in studying art, music, dance, and theater. Education and engagement in the fine arts should be an integral segment of every school curriculum and a paramount element in the educational program for every student.
We’ve known for decades that education and participation in the arts reduces dropout rates, increases student attendance, fosters and nurtures interest in learning, improves ones’ dignity, develops creativity, enhances team building skills, and produces more prepared individuals in the workplace. Everyone agrees that the arts are an integral part of our cultural heritage as well as a critical part of our human experience. But what is new on the horizon is how creative thinking and artistic expression is going to be a critical partner in processing fathomless amounts of data and using that infinite information in inventive and expressive ways.
This year, selected students enrolled in the 7th and 8th grade visual arts program at ELCA are learning how to create three dimensional designs by using a computer program in order to 3D print an original sculpture. Students will be introduced to programs such as CAD and CURA in order to create original designs using the latest technological advancements. Providing access to modern technology creates opportunities for our students to begin thinking about creative careers in a competitive job market. It is imperative that our Arts programs at ELCA be forward thinking when it comes to using technology in creativity. For instance, Visual Art students at ELCA students will be taught the fundamentals of art, art history and meet high expectations in demonstrating the elements and principles of design in each composition. However, whenever possible, students need to be exposed to new and developing technology, new equipment, the latest techniques, new mediums and strategies that will provide them with a competitive edge when entering tomorrow’s highly technological workforce.