Behind the Scenes Education

Teen Satellite Students Take Final Project Into Their Own Hands

Screencapture of Breanna W.'s teen programs video.
Screencapture of Breanna W.’s teen programs video.

This coming year will be my third year as Chelsea’s intern, so I’ve definitely come to know my way around the Art Museum and its many programs. I work with Chelsea mostly with the Satellite High School Internship Program, thus I was thrilled to have a hand in some of the prepping and planning for the spring term.

Prior to the start of the spring semester, Chelsea and I did some program brainstorming for the Satellite Program. Most of our conversation was about what the final project would look like for the students. Read more to find out more about the teaching process and view the students’ final project videos!

In past classes, Satellite students have always produced a final “Gallery Talk” where students choose a work of art, research the artist and its history, produce a creative response inspired by it, and create a presentation to be given to a group (either as a public tour or just for family, friends, and Museum staff).

This format has its challenges. There never seems to be enough class time for students to conduct proper research, even with the help of our treasured and resourceful library! It was difficult to fit all of our other activities in addition to working on and practicing the final projects. Students also had difficulty making time to work on their creative response outside of class. Aside from time constraints, students have also struggled with nerves and speaking in public – something we also didn’t really have the time to properly teach or practice. Chelsea and I were determined to find a new solution for Satellite students that could soften the public speaking aspect if students so chose, that would be more efficient, but would still allow the students a lot of wiggle room for imagination and individual choice.

After tossing a multitude of ideas around with each other, Chelsea and I came up with some rough idea of a film project, with much to be determined by student input. Who doesn’t like films, right? Ask Rushton Hurley, educator and founder of Next Vista for Learning, who presented at April’s event Milwaukee Art Museum Connects: Creativity, Technology, and Student-Generated Content. Hurley himself gushed about film and its potential as an educational medium at the Museum’s event for area teachers this past April. (Here’s a video of Hurley at a similar conference.)

Screencapture of Joel's teen programs video.
Screencapture of Joel’s teen programs video.

When handed off to our students, the class had tons of great ideas and input to build on our diamond-in-the-rough idea. First of all, the teens loved the idea of contributing to the Library’s archive in honor of the Museum’s 125th Anniversary. Students insisted on keeping the past criteria of producing a creative response based off of a chosen work of art, and also were excited by the thought of a public presentation of some kind.

What eventually came of our extensive group brainstorming was this: each student would choose a work of art, do some loose research about the artist and the piece (whatever would help them with their response); write a brief explanation of why s/he chose the piece, and how it connects to one of our framing questions (see below); film the student with their creative product next to his/her chosen work of art. In the final video, the audio recording plays in the background. We would then compile all the films to be premiered on our final day of class to the public, followed with a Q&A segment.

The spring semester of Satellite included a set of “framing questions.” These included: 1.) What is an art museum’s role in its community? 2.) Why do artists make art? 3.) Where and how do I see museums in my future? And an addition from our students: 4.) What does art mean to me? These questions helped shape and guide the program towards critical thinking and personal reflecting, which was central when creating the final projects. As always, the teens impressed me with their selection of art works, their responses, and the ways in which they articulated their connections to the art works.

As I have learned both from this internship and through my undergraduate education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, it is always beneficial to incorporate student-generated content into your curriculum/program. By allowing students to tailor what it was that they wanted to do for the final project of the Satellite program, we ended up with truly stunning results. Watch them all in the YouTube playlist below!

Jessica Janzer, Teen Programs Intern

Leave a Reply