Westview Art Teacher Envisions School-Based Enterprises
BY KAREN CAMPBELL
Weakley County Schools Communications Director
MARTIN (March 10) – Each Wednesday, Westview students from Debbie Carden’s classroom make their way down the hall (with Educational Assistants Shannon Roberts and Dawn Thompson). From the moment they arrive at art teacher Jennifer Wenz’s door, they are artists. Traditionally, the options for creating were pen, pencils and paint. These days, imaginations are also fueled by technology.
In February, these students from the Comprehensive Development Class used a laser to turn their drawings into etched plates to give as gifts for Valentine’s Day.
Other art students have utilized that same laser, purchased with grant monies from the Charger Foundation, to add custom messages and graphics to drink tumblers, baseball bats and golf balls.
They’ve also handdrawn floor plans for imagined houses and are now learning the software to build 3D models of their designs.
And if Wenz’s dream comes true, these first steps could be leading the way for Westview students to become entrepreneurs.
“The hope is that we start to bring the student’s artwork to life and in the process they gain an understanding of not only digital arts, but of design as well,” said Wenz. “I’m hoping in the future we see the kids working with our community to develop a product that will help promote not only the arts, but to help sustain a Makerspace-type classroom where all children are free to use their imagination and watch it come to life.”
According to STEAM (science, math, engineering, art, math) experts, a makerspace may include components of a lab, a craft area, a STEM center, a tech room or an art station. Makerspaces provide hands-on, creative ways to encourage students to design, experiment, build and invent as they engage in science, engineering and tinkering.
Wenz is on her way toward creating such a space. She’s already obtained the laser and a 3D printer. She is looking toward the day when even more can be added.
“Giving students a space and time to build, explore, fail and retry, and share their ideas with others is so important. If I can expose these kids to different avenues of things they didn’t think possible that’s my goal,” she noted.
Currently, she and the students are gaining an understanding of the new devices and their capabilities.
“I really hope at some point to have a type of work-based, learning class where the kids have real-life projects that they’re working on for the community. The money that the products bring in could help sustain the class and provide new technology in new equipment so that future generations have the same experience and are getting lifelong skills that will prepare them for the outside world upon graduation,” Wenz added.
Thus far, students have only gifted their etched creations. The next step is to produce enough for fundraisers. Ultimately, Wenz would like to see students take on production, marketing and distribution so that they can experience all sides of a self-sustaining, school-based enterprise.