SCA’s ‘arts|in’ open house Nov. 16 highlights student-business partnerships

artsin-open-house-1-jpgThe senior class of Saugatuck High School will present a special evening Nov. 16 as they conclude their 13-week Senior Seminar course in partnership with the Saugatuck Center for the Arts (SCA).

The open house on Wednesday, Nov. 16 at the SCA, 400 Culver Street, showcases the work the 70 students have accomplished during their arts|in Senior Seminar course. The event, which is free to the public, runs from 6:30–8:30 pm. Attendees will enjoy listening to live music, nibbling on hors d’oeuvres and engaging in an energetic evening with some of the community’s most creative young people.

During the Open House, students will introduce their partner businesses and preview the solutions they created. Participating area businesses include Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates of Holland, Pathways, Special Olympics, twisthink, Saugatuck Community Recreation, Critter Barn, Disability Network of Lakeshore, Felt Mansion, Grace of Douglas, Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity, United Way of Allegan and more. A special exhibition of artwork by Hamilton, Saugatuck and Fennville students, created in response to the Senior Seminar projects, will open the same evening in the SCA’s conference room.

Designed as an arts|in project-based learning class, the students spent the last trimester paired up with area businesses, helping solve real world problems. This project-based learning model created by the SCA — arts|in — gives students crucial “real world” opportunities to work with professionals, tackle current problems, and produce credible solutions. The result is deeper, more complex learning opportunities for students and valuable outcomes for the businesses.

SCA Executive Director Kristin Armstrong said the art center is very excited for students to have this opportunity to connect with community members. “For the past three years we’ve been working with the Saugatuck Schools to better prepare students for jobs in today’s innovative economy,” Armstrong said.

Project-based learning (PBL) enables students to develop deeper learning competencies required for success in college, career, and civic life. Through PBL projects, students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time investigating and responding to complex questions, problems, or challenges. Arts|in takes project-based learning to a higher level by injecting design thinking and community engagement into the process.

Ann McKnight, who is working with a group on teen mental health issues, says of students in the arts|in process, “I have witnessed the students working cohesively, brainstorming, and delegating responsibilities with ease, all the while showing respect for each other and being engaged in the project. Their communications with me have been clear and consistent.  All this to say I am very impressed with these students, and with the vision for learning that teaches soft skills as well as strengthens the community.”

Dr. Tim Travis, Saugatuck Middle School & High School Principal, says he was impressed by the students’ preparation for an “Intriguing Conversation” program they presented at the SCA in October. “I was even more impressed with their compassion, empathy, passion and commitment to making a difference in their school and community. Arts|in is providing great teaching, real world learning, and local impact from a very talented young adult workforce.”

The student exhibition of works responding to arts|in projects is open Monday-Friday, 9 am–5 pm, free of charge, through December.