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February 24, 2014
Students build games, 21st century skills in Industrial Design workshop
By Carolyn Jack
They were young, but they came to build games, not to play them. In the process, the high-school students of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Museum Ambassadors program started building a better future for themselves, the museum, and the Cleveland Institute of Art.
For the third straight year, nearly 60 teenaged Ambassadors from a wide range of area high schools spent part of a chilly January day working at CIA with third-year Industrial Design students, learning the processes of creating a product from concept to fabrication. The experience gave the teens a valuable chance to develop their imaginations and skills. But just as important, they had the opportunity to see why arts institutions like CIA and the museum matter culturally and economically to their communities.
“We want teens to feel that [the museum] is a place for them,” said Hajnal Eppley, the museum’s assistant director of school and teacher engagement. She and her colleagues also want young people to think broadly about 21st-century skills and to develop those skills in an art context.
CIA’s Industrial Design Department serves these goals effectively, she added, because for teens, the idea or lesson is “more meaningful when it comes from fellow students. I think they can identify really well with the CIA students.”
It’s good for the CIA students, too, said Industrial Design visiting instructor Dennis Futo, noting in an email that “our students enjoy sharing their knowledge of the design process.”
That process immersed this year’s ambassadors in creative problem-solving and team work. “The sessions involved our students brainstorming with them about their ideas and fabricating a quick model of their designs,” Futo wrote. “It's a fantastic hands-on experience for the high-school students.”
The program also benefits CIA as an institution, Futo observed, because “this collaborative program and others have led to high-school students furthering their education at CIA.”
The 13-year-old ambassadors program exists to create that kind of impact, said Eppley. Though it began as an audience-building tool for the museum, it has changed over the years, becoming a two-year exploration of arts processes and skills for students who come to the museum once a month, October through April.
Eppley said that a data evaluation will soon reveal the program’s impact on students and organizations. But even without statistics, she sees the program as an important starting point for young people: an introduction to the idea that the arts teach skills valuable in whatever occupations they might eventually choose. “At least,” said Eppley, “it gives them the awareness level to start thinking about that.”
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