Using art to teach critical thinking.
Several months ago, I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to speak about creativity at ACE: The Arts Community of Easton's monthly meeting held on the campus of Lafayette College. During that talk, I made a comment about my perception that the only two kids that get to enjoy high school are the captain of the football team and his cheerleader girlfriend. After the talk, a man came up to me and told that he was a teacher and thought my remark was not entirely accurate and that he's confident that the students he teaches in his class were indeed having fun while they learned.
His name is Danny Moyer, and he teaches Drawing I & II, 3-D Design and Advanced Dual Enrollment at Whitehall High School. He was gracious enough to sit down with me and share some of his insights on twenty years of teaching kids to how to draw and think critically. What was immediately apparent to me was that this was someone who truly loves teaching. I could feel it in the way he spoke about the projects he assigns and the how he challenges his student's perceptions every day.
He doesn't just assign projects and then wait for students to turn it in for a grade. He engages them, pushes them to see things another way. "I enjoy putting them in scenarios that force them to think their way out of," Moyer said. He believes his job is to get his students to see things from multiple perspectives. "Don't just take the first idea that pops into your head," he will often remind them. He also encourages them to ask difficult questions. "What am I missing here?" "Could I improve on this initial concept"?
Danny told me that he stays energized, not only through teaching, but by being a working artist, and exhibiting his work frequently around the valley, which keeps him plugged into the regional art scene thereby allowing him to share those experiences with his students. He's aware that he won't be there to witness the moment when a former student might be able to apply one of the concepts they learned in his class, and he's at peace with that.
Teachers like Danny Moyer are critical because he helps students experience the world through the end of a Conti pencil or paintbrush and by doing that, they gain a perspective that they wouldn't get from any other class. "The students often think they are learning to draw when in actuality I'm giving them lessons on how to approach their life," Moyer added.
We ended our conversation on an example Danny uses in his classes. We discussed the 1 point, 2 point and 3 point perspective exercise he assigns and how he uses it to show the students that they should always look at every situation from multiple angles. It was at that exact moment that my perception changed, and I realized that I shouldn't assume that the only two kids who enjoy high school is the captain of the football team and his cheerleader girlfriend. Lesson learned, Mr. Moyer. Lesson learned.