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Students Flourish as Artists and Teachers at Compass Academy

(By Mentor Artist Marty Meade, who has been working with the students of Compass Academy, formerly Braun, for 11 years.)

Compass Academy, formally known as Braun High School, has moved to a larger campus. The new building is providing me with an area that is five times bigger than before.  It means that the students can spread out, my materials are organized for their use, and they now have storage area for their weekly projects.

Besides the move, there is also an additional group of younger students who range in age from 7 to 12 year olds.  They are here because of behavior problems in other schools.

I have given every child their own journal so that they can express their feelings, or write about their experience that day.  The new group is challenging, but with great support I have had the opportunity to give the students an opportunity to try new materials.

Students have been able to work with acrylic paints on canvas, watercolor paper, marbling, edible art (sugar skulls),  decorating masks, origami, and fused glass pieces.

I want to share a story about “Brandon”… a junior high school boy from Guatemala.  When I first met him he expressed a lot of anxiety about the possibility of his father being deported.  He became the class clown and often would get attention by inappropriate behavior (ie: sexual drawings).   I began to notice that his drawings were typical of a 4 year old child and shared this with his therapist and indicated that they could use it for reference to get the additional help that he needed.

One day, after I brought bright colored paper, I found an Origami crane on the table, and the therapist indicated that “Brandon” had made it.  I was ‘blown away’, and expressed how complicated this was and how could we reach him more through origami. I asked his homeroom teacher if he could find something on YouTube on “1000 cranes” and share with the class before I got there the next week.

So the next week, I came in loaded with origami paper and asked “Brandon” if he could come into the high school class and show the others how to fold cranes.   “Brandon’ came in and proudly demonstrated the folding, with some of the kids giving him full attention, and others frustrated by the directions.  I was able to leave paper in the room for them to use while I was away.  Each week I would bring in more paper, and find complicated shapes filling the area.  We all watched “Brandon” change before our eyes. One teacher said that he seemed taller. I am thrilled that my hunch worked, and will never look at another crane in the same way.

I am happy that I have a year contract as it gives me a chance to really connect with these students. Thank you to the Marin County Office of Education, Buck Family Fund, and the Kennedy Center for allowing me to do this work.

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One thought on “Students Flourish as Artists and Teachers at Compass Academy

Jayne McPherson says:

Beautiful portrait of this vital intervention. Also, how astute to draw analogy between responding through observation skills in art and developing emotional empathy! Yes, yes! Thank you for sharing your expertise.

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