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Beyond the Canvas: Art in the Digital Age

When Winnie Gu first accepted a job to teach at Success Academy, she had one key goal in mind: to instill in her students the same love of exploratory learning and passion for creativity that she has been cultivating since a young age. Now a K-2 art teacher at SA Cobble Hill, her classes go way beyond the fundamentals of art and basic color — her young artists are taking on the sophisticated world of digital design, with surprising results.

Ms. Gu attended an American international high school in Singapore, where she developed a love for inquiry learning and a passion for art and design. There, she had access to a MakerSpace — a creative, DIY space where people can gather to create, invent, and learn — and there was a 3D printer, a laser cutter, and more tools that sparked her curiosity about digital art.

After double majoring in art and architecture at Lehigh University, Ms. Gu spent the summer of her junior year teaching in Thailand before returning to Lehigh to study education in grad school. Hired by Success Academy this past July, Ms. Gu was determined to use her unique background to teach her kids something different.

“I thought, maybe I could bring something digital to the kids,” Ms. Gu said. “Every kid already had a Chromebook, so I wanted them to maximize this opportunity and learn how technology can be used to make art.”

Ms. Gu’s students use Tinkercad, a free web app that’s geared toward younger learners of 3D design, programming, and coding. It’s a product of Autodesk, the software company that also developed AutoCAD (computer-aided design), the preferred application of many architects and engineers.

After a brief introduction on how to drag and drop shapes and use the program, the scholars have quickly begun developing a wide variety of designs.

“They are much more tech-savvy than I expected. They quickly learned how to go to the menu and select and rotate different shapes. It blew my mind.”

Looking ahead, Ms. Gu hopes to introduce her scholars to 3D animation — and has her sights set on virtual reality technology to do so. While it will require the right technology and planning, Ms. Gu is excited for her scholars to potentially use their body movements to build their own characters.

“I wanted my kids to have the same curiosity and exploratory spirit that I had back in high school,” Ms. Gu said. “Because that mindset helped me succeed in college. I want that for my kids, too.”

Written by Success Academy April 8, 2022

Subjects: Teacher Art
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