Broadening horizons

Dan Owen

A group of Kent State art education student teachers check in to the Portage-Geauga County Juvenile Detention Center prior to teaching. Daniel Owen | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

VIEW an audio slide show of the students’ trip.

Editor’s Note: The names of the students at the juvenile detention center have been withheld for privacy reasons.

Kent State art education students arrive at the location for their weekly student teaching.

As they check in, the security guard waves a metal detector up and down their bodies. In about 30 minutes, their students will enter the room – their hands behind their backs and dressed in orange, baggy clothing.

These Kent State students are teaching at the Portage-Geauga County Juvenile Detention Center in Ravenna.

Kristin Stambaugh, a special education staff teacher at the detention center, said the Kent State art students bring a unique aspect to the facility.

“The Kent State students bring in so many different ideas and different art projects where (the juveniles) really get to use their creativity, and it’s not just your typical pencil and paper,” she said. “It really broadens their horizon.”

The program is part of the Field Experience class in Kent State’s art education program. Students teach at a detention center for six weeks and teach special needs children for another six weeks.

Students teach either at the Portage-Geauga County Juvenile Detention Center or the Summit County Juvenile Detention Center.

Art education professor Juliann Dorff began teaching the Field Experience class seven years ago. The program started 20 years ago.

“The most important thing I tell my students before they go to the center is they’re not teaching bad kids,” she said. “They are teaching kids who made bad choices.”

Dorff said art is an important part of juveniles’ education because it gives them a different form of education in their day.

“Art gives (the juveniles) the opportunity for not just a free expression but for a discussion of ideas and an opportunity for them to express themselves that is not verbal,” Dorff said. “A lot of the issues and the questions we talk about in art are open-ended and require critical thinking skills at a level that some of the other academic areas don’t.”

Dorff said it can be beneficial for the juveniles to interact with the Kent State students because they are younger, and the juveniles can relate to them.

“It gives them an opportunity to see a young teacher,” she said. “They may really have a relationship with them and to see a younger face, someone who is a little more aware of what’s happening in the kid’s scene.”

Aaron Szczurek, senior art education major and current teacher in the program, said the kids at the detention center are usually very focused.

“In the detention center, they know that it’s their last chance,” he said. “They try to participate more and put more initiative because they know they are up against the wall there.”

One juvenile said the art class has been a lot of fun.

“I have been here a couple times before, and all the other times it’s been fun, too,” he said. “They taught us a lot about differences.”

Another juvenile agreed.

“I really enjoy it,” he said. “You get to be creative with yourself.”

It’s not only the juveniles who learn during a class session.

“I learn something different every time I teach at the center,” said Sydney Jordan, senior art education major. “Working with one group of children is completely different than working with another group.”

Leah Davis, senior art education major, said the most rewarding part of the experience is changing a kid’s outlook by incorporating art into his or her day.

“It’s interesting, I really like it a lot,” she said. “I would do it forever.”

Although there are limitations on what art supplies the Kent students can bring to the center, Davis said it helps stimulate the Kent State students creativity.

“It forces you to be more creative,” Davis said. “To still have them do really great projects and address issues that they may have and make our lessons geared toward them, so they like it.”

Lesson plans are put into action

Fred Miller, senior art education major, began setting up his classroom at the detention center by organizing paint brushes, paint, clay and play money.

Miller incorporated an art auction into his lesson plan.

As the juveniles walked in, they were each given the same amount of money, and Miller began showing the art he was auctioning off.

The art included a few different pieces, including a football picture, which was definitely the hot item.

“I got 50 on it,” yelled one juvenile.

“I’m raising you 20,” responded another.

One juvenile even offered a friend some of his money.

“I’ll give you some money for a snack,” he said.

It wasn’t all fun and games once a juvenile won his art piece.

Miller’s goal was to have the juveniles talk about the different aspects of the artwork that they won, so they not only own the piece of art but have an understanding of what it means.

Kristin Stambaugh, a special education staff teacher at the detention center, said the auction was a great idea.

“I think (the auction) was really good because it got to touch on the money and counting money,” she said.

Miller and his teaching partner, Aaron Szczurek, then began letting their students work on clay sculptures.

“The clay was really fun,” said one juvenile in Miller and Szczurek’s class. “It’s more, like, hands-on; we got to get more into it and more creative with it.”

In another room down the hall, Sydney Jordan, senior art education major, is executing her plan to a group of younger juveniles. Her lesson plan included having them create paintings with two different textures and two different

color variations.

“Very good idea, I love it,” she told one juvenile. “You need two textures and two color variations.”

Next door, Leah Davis, senior art education major, showed her students a project that involved creating plastic cut-outs and heating them in a small oven.

The juveniles used numerous colors and created different pieces of work.

“Can I make an extra one for my mom?” asked one juvenile in Davis’ class. “I want to make her a heart.”

Davis said the whole experience is pretty rewarding.

“I keep in mind that they are really angry,” she said. “I try to bring a hour and a half of joy, and let them forget about where they are at and why they are there.”

Contact school of art reporter Daniel Owen at [email protected].