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The 360 Blog

A 360-degree view of student-centered education, written by teachers and staff at Park Tudor School.

Integrating Fine Arts into the Classroom
By Brent Kaneft, Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Courage is grace under pressure.”

This quote is attributed to Ernest Hemingway, though Hemingway never said it exactly like that. In a 1929 New Yorker interview with Dorothy Parker, he referred to courage as “guts”—a true Hemingway euphemism—and when Parker pressed him to explain, he said, “I mean...grace under pressure.” “Guts is grace under pressure” doesn’t have quite the same ring, so we’ve changed it over time. Regardless, the two quotes mean the same thing.

For the last month, my sophomore American Literature course has analyzed the theme of “grace under pressure” in Hemingway’s classic “Nick Adams” stories. Want to find the hero in a story by Hemingway? Find the character who displays “grace under pressure,” the one who stays calm under intense circumstances. I often ask students to write for 10 minutes on themes like “grace under pressure,” just to get them going, to help them formulate ideas. At the start of the year, I noticed that my students didn’t all write in a composition notebook or a journal. It wasn’t a requisite tool for the class, but I think it’s nice to keep all of your writing in the same place.

Enter Stefanie Dean, graphic design teacher. Stefanie, along with Heather Teets, runs the Art Fab Lab, a new place on campus to design, iterate, and create. During my unit on Ernest Hemingway, Stefanie, Heather, and I sat down to brainstorm how the Art Fab Lab could be used in collaboration with other disciplines. As the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, I wanted to help. After some debate, we decided to ask one teacher from each discipline to participate in a collaborative project that uses the Art Fab Lab’s resources. I immediately volunteered to represent the English Department, and then Stefanie ran down the list of possibilities we could create. When she said “journal,” I immediately agreed. 

Mind, Brain, and Education research suggests that novelty can enhance deep, reflective cognitive engagement; it also suggests that arts integration may aid motivation, as well as memory storage,”
Glenn Whitman and Ian Kelleher in Neuroteach (139)

Novelty and arts: check! I split my class into two groups. While half of us worked on writing skills, the other half visited Stefanie.

“Brent’s students joined me in The Art Fab Lab where they got a crash course in Adobe Illustrator, a program they can dive deeper into when taking Graphic Design,” said Stefanie. “After playing and testing different fonts and styles, students uploaded their quote designs to the Glowforge, a hobby-level laser cutter and engraver. With the press of the glowing blue button, their designs were etched line-by-line into chipboard. Once they came out of the Glowforge, they stacked their journal parts and crimped them together with a wire binding. Ta-da! Custom journals for each student.” 

This is a small example of what’s coming at Park Tudor—a streamlined ability to mix the Fine Arts with any discipline to let students create. And when they create, they plan, execute, fail, process, and then try again. It’s projects like these that develop grit, humility, and a growth mindset in our students.