Curriculum Example from Vaughn Occupational High School

We worked with Vaughn Occupational High School during the 2015-2016 school year to integrate visual art and communication.

  • Kennedy Center VSA Logo 2016-2017Project Title: Super Humans, Super Powers
  • School: Vaughn Occupational High School
  • Teacher(s): Laura R. Smith
  • Artist(s): Chuck Jones
  • Grade(s): High School
  • Academic focus: Communication
  • Artistic focus: Visual Art

The Big Idea: We are using the idea that everyone has superpowers to get students with severe intellectual disabilities to first discover their own skills/area of strength in order to create a logo for their own Superpower, in order to better understand and communicate their strengths to others. They are also learning how to follow multiple step directions in order to focus on a design project.

Project Narrative:

Beginning: We wanted to create a project that worked both to lead students to understand themselves better and to understand some new ways to communicate with others. We were hoping that the students would learn to follow instructions step by step, to think about how you put a picture together in pieces and how colors, shapes, pictures, and text can communicate emotions and content.

They learned very quickly that they can actually design something, that they can make an artistic decision. They learned that if you go step by step and listen, you can build a piece in parts that add up to a whole. We were surprised by how much the project mattered to them, and by what little details were really important to them. We suspected that the superhero part of the project would be interesting and fun for them, but we had no idea that how much they would be immediately invested. Claire brought in a drawing that she did at home of “Claire, Queen of Kindness:

Vaughn - Claire sketch

Middle: We  treated every class as single unit. How to add shapes together to make a new shape. How to subtract one shape from another to make a new shape. How to draw letters fatter so you can cut them out. How we can take a drawing and separate into pieces. “What kind of super powers do you have?” “How do  these powers make you feel?” “What are you excited about?” “Do you want your superhero logo happy or angry or excited or quiet?” “What shapes can you use to show feelings””What pictures or symbols can you use?” “What would these symbols mean?” “Do you want a letter on your logo?” How big?” “Where do you want these pieces to go?” What colors of vinyl do you want to use for what part.”

We were continually surprised by how passionate the kids were about the project from start to finish, every day.

End: We had to trouble shoot and refocus the students. We had students use a photocopy of their prototype to figure out what colors were going to go where, which helped the students to simplify their projects. After we cut the vinyl and glued it, Chuck sewed it together. Meanwhile the students helped each other write about their superhero, their powers, and themselves.

Throughout the project, our students had to think about themselves, what their skills and personalities were and how they could best communicate them. Then they had to question whether or not they could make what they thought they were making. And finally, they had to question if the logo really looked like they thought it did, and if it reflected them. Ultimately, the students really enjoyed the project and felt ownership over their pieces, and we were impressed by how aspirational all of their superpowers were.

Vaughn - claire final

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