Classroom Grants, one of eight key programs funded by PCEF, funds dozens and dozens of innovative ideas and learning opportunities in the classroom. One of these is the Visiting Artist initiative. 8th- and 9th-grade art teacher Marilyn Bambrough brings it to life for her students in an extremely unique way.
In what she hopes becomes a regular experience for her Art Foundations 8th graders (which means all students - not just those who may be artistically-inclined), Ms. Bambrough invites veteran, in-demand toy designer Stefanie Eskander to spend two days with her classes. Stefanie’s experience speaks for itself: not only was she a part of the original team which created Cabbage Patch Kids, but she *also* designed Rainbow Brite - and used her daughter as the model! So it makes perfect sense that she has worked for just about every major toy company in the United States, including Mattel, Hasbro, Toys R Us, and Madame Alexander Dolls.
And, while she tried to retire here to Utah, she’s still hard at work, freelancing. Despite her busy schedule, she spent two days in December with our 8th-grade art students - and her bona fides brought a spectacular wealth of knowledge.
“It’s exciting to have someone visit who has been a toy designer for 40 years, who has designed all the toys they played with,” said Ms. Bambrough.
“ It makes a connection that means something. This is how we apply the arts - and how meaningful they are.”
To begin, Ms. Bambrough showed the class Ms. Eskander’s portfolio and gave the assignment using actual parameters toy designers have: to design a toy that was safe, fun, engaging, and entertaining. No age limits, no electronics, and no games, and it had to be a toy that would be able to *actually* be produced.
“[The design] had to be completely original - and that’s hard to do,” said Ms. Bambrough, “but it really worked! They really had to think! This assignment happened toward the end of the semester, so they had developed good artistic skills. It was a challenge for them, and it felt like they really rose to the occasion.”
Students created thumbnail sketches, two rough drafts, and an explanation of their toy design. In preparation for the project, Ms. Bambrough had taught her students how to render the images. Once all the design was done - the nerve wracking work of presenting it to Ms. Eskander began!
Not only was presenting the designs a valuable experience, but the students also got immediate, valuable, not-always-easy-to-swallow real-world feedback. And one of the things that really impressed Ms. Bambrough was the creativity in her students’ final products.
“Now remember,” she said, “This was the Foundations class which everyone has to take - not just artist students! There was a great mix of ability - and sometimes the kids with the least art experience had the greatest ideas. Their talents and skills showed up in a bunch of different ways.”
Ms. Bambrough also expressed a lot of gratitude to be able to provide her students with this experience.
“One of the greatest opportunities the Park City Education Foundation has provided has been Visiting Artists,” she said.
“It gives the kids real-life experience, and something like THIS is what an artist does in the real world. It allows our students to have the experience, to talk with artists, and to get some real design opportunities that are more than just an assignment - it’s applied knowledge.”
“Real-world projects like these develop that creative thought process - and that’s applied in any field they go into. It’s applied in their homes. It’s applied as a mother, as a father. They have to be able to creatively problem-solve and arts develop those skills.”
Oh, and about the level of quality toy designs that our students created? Ms. Bambrough revealed:
“Stefanie said, some of these projects are actually sell-able!”
Thank you to the Thomas and Carolyn Fey Family Foundation, Deer Valley Resort, and parent donors for their support of Classroom Grants.