Taking It to the Streets: Project-Based Learning Provides Real-World Venues, Real-World Challenges for CCAD Students

November 13th, 2012 by IMAGE Magazine
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The anatomy lab at Columbus State Community College, photo courtesy of Kristine Schramer

By Robin Hepler

Tens of thousands of visitors to the COSI science museum this winter will view an exhibition of CCAD students’ interpretations of the human form. Students in the fall semester course The Human Body in Art and Science have had access to the cadaver labs at Columbus State Community College and to the fall Body Worlds & the Brain exhibition at COSI to study the body from numerous perspectives—all for their use in creating art at the level expected for an exhibition hosted by a regional tourist destination.

CCAD faculty members Julie Posey (Science) and Kristine Schramer (Fine Arts) developed the team-taught course and negotiated the community partnerships to bring this full array of opportunities to students. The project provides an expansive and very public new venue for students to exhibit their final coursework and serves as an example of CCAD’s evolution in project-based learning.

“The college is moving toward a more cross-disciplinary way to deliver on project-based learning to mimic what happens in the real world,” says Kevin Conlon, CCAD vice president for Academic Affairs. “We are intentionally seeking external academic partners to provide opportunities for students to engage in teaming and problem-solving challenges.”

The expanding scope of projects is bringing faculty members together to create whole new classes, such as Posey and Schramer’s human body course.

“The scale of these newer project-based learning opportunities is becoming much more ambitious,” Conlon says. “As a result, they often engender dedicated courses that aggregate talent from multiple levels and departments and in academic constructs that may go beyond the limits of current course models and academic terms.”

CCAD students doing a dissection in the CSCC lab, photo courtesy of Kristine Schramer

Constructing new learning opportunities

Posey says she and Schramer spent three months developing learning objectives and finding the right combination of curriculum elements from science and art for the new course.

“I focus on the world out there that isn’t art. This course is about the human body—every different aspect, from tattoos to aging to body systems to our DNA,” Posey says. “I try to engage students about issues that are fundamentally meaningful to them as humans, not necessarily as artists. That is where Kris comes in.

“Kris shows these kids that our worldly experiences, our knowledge of our own micro-world, can be truly inspirational as art,” Posey says. “She ties what I do with what artists do.”

In each lecture Schramer shows students work of contemporary artists who work with the human form as their muse. Students are not asked to memorize facts about science; instead, Schramer says, she wants to teach students how to make themselves subject experts when they need to for their creative work.

And she teaches the process of a project.

“My goal is for every student in this class to have the experience of taking on an ambitious project and completing it successfully. I meet so many creative people who are full of brilliant ideas, but lack both the nerve to begin and the practical skills to manage the execution of a complicated project,” Schramer says.

“Using the study of science and each student’s individual project as the educational vehicle, I guide them through the stages of brainstorming, refining, proposing, revising and proposing again, researching, planning, budgeting, scheduling, and presenting their work publicly.”

Schramer says these skills can be applied to any major endeavor undertaken in life, whether it be artistic, entrepreneurial, or personal.

Posey and Schramer partnered last fall to team-teach a biotechnology course that also tapped the resources of Columbus State anatomist Eric Kenz. That project helped launch 2012 graduate Jonathan Hodge’s career in medical illustration. This year’s public exhibition at COSI, sharing museum space with the acclaimed Body Worlds & the Brain exhibit, makes their second project-based course much larger in scope—creating more opportunity and expectations.

UPDATE 12/2/12: There will be a free, public reception to view the student work on Sunday, 6-8 p.m. Dec. 9, 2013, at COSI Columbus.

Community-based projects

Students working in the CCAD MindMarket, photo courtesy Danielle Ford (2013)

Businesses and organizations in central Ohio can now access the talent of CCAD faculty, staff, and students for projects through the CCAD MindMarket’s DesignLab. Depending on the need, the CCAD MindMarket can assemble cross-disciplinary teams to provide design solutions through three different project structures: charrettes lasting 54–72 hours; semester-long, in-class projects; and longer-term project partnerships.

A spring 2012 joint project that teamed up a Fashion Design class and an Advertising & Graphic Design class is an example of the kind of community project that likely will work through the new MindMarket in the future.

Twenty-two students from the two classes presented design solutions for Huntington Bank’s branded team jersey for the annual Pelotonia bike race to raise money for cancer research. In the end, the bank asked that two options be combined—utilizing functional design elements by senior Nina Rehner and graphics by senior Dahui (Danny) Li.

“That’s how real projects work in corporations,” says Suzanne Cotton, chair of Fashion Design at CCAD. “It was a terrific scenario for the two finalists to work together to combine their concepts.”

Matt Mohr, assistant professor of Visual Communications and Media Studies, led the graphic design students in the project.

“We’re always looking for ways to combine disciplines,” says Mohr. “Apparel graphics, especially the opportunity to create a concept that covered the entire garment, posed a unique challenge. Given that the designs were for a well-respected, high-profile event made for eager excitement among the students.”

Conlon says the new curriculum architecture being built at CCAD supports the practicum experience, whether faculty members are bringing new projects to the classroom or outside organizations are approaching CCAD through the new structure of the MindMarket.

“It’s all about providing the students choices among a variety of paths to the practicum and a gateway to the professional-level and portfolio-worthy experience,” Conlon says.

All project-based learning is incredibly valuable for the student—not just for the experience of merging research, theory, application, experience, and result, Conlon says, but also for the benefit it provides students in developing their portfolios.

“Professional development has always begun with the portfolio at CCAD. Our continuing commitment to the portfolio as the primary evidence of discipline readiness will now be enhanced with the engagement of more and varied types of project-based learning,” Conlon says. “The practicum experience, played out in at least 12 credit hours within the new curriculum architecture, is the college’s demonstrated commitment to this ideal.”

For Schramer the experience is paying additional, personal dividends: “In these classes, Julie and I are learning right along with the students,” she says.

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Published in print twice a year, CCAD’s IMAGE magazine shares stories about our creative community, whether here in Columbus or around the world—what we’re doing, thinking, and planning next. The IMAGE blog brings those stories online for transmission at the click of a mouse.

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