Art education majors teach summer class at detention center

Marissa Eisenbrei

A new volunteer program emerged this summer: Kent State art education majors visit the Portage County Juvenile Detention Center and teach students art history.

Dan Humphrey, senior art education major and president of the National Art Education Association student chapter, established the program this year.

Humphrey said he “immediately fell in love with the students” at the detention center during his field experience.

“I enjoy knowing that I’m making [the students’] day that much better,” Humphrey said.

The program provides kids in the detention center the opportunity to learn art for a 10-week period. Kent State students teach two hour-and-a-half-long classes every Friday. Out of the 15 volunteers, three to six visit the detention center each week.

“We also prepare students for alternative teaching, so they’re really getting this powerful, holistic, ‘I can teach anywhere’ experience,” art education coordinator Linda Poling said.

Students at the center are between the ages of 12 and 17. Each class has about seven or eight students. Humphrey said they generally focus on lessons about contemporary art.

“We really stress the use of contemporary art because it speaks to the current generation,” Poling said.

During each class session, the volunteers teach art history, play a game and then go into the studio. They develop their own lesson plans and topics to teach the students based off of their own interests.

“Personally, I find a work I really enjoy, then find two more supporting artworks that support it,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey’s favorite lesson was based off of TOMS Shoes. TOMS is an organization that donates a pair of shoes to a child in need when another pair is purchased.

Humphrey’s lesson was to make two ceramic coffee mugs. Students could keep one, and the other was donated. By the end of the lesson, students wanted to donate both.

“The students realized they were making a difference in someone’s life,” Humphrey said.

Volunteers gradually build rapport with the students.

Julie Dorff, lecturer for the art department at Kent State, said the students have different comfort levels and fears. She also said each student starts at a different point.

However, with the prior field experience of the volunteers, students become more comfortable in the classroom.

“Their ability to take charge in the classroom and the inner confidence makes the learning so much more powerful,” Dorff said.

Humphrey said the number of volunteers exceeded his expectation for the program.

Kent State art education majors have been visiting the center for 20 years for their field experience, although this is the first time the program has been enacted over summer semesters. The program will be continued for future summers.

Contact Marissa Eisenbrei at [email protected].