Field trip leads students to real world job experience

January 2, 2013

By KIM BUCK - Special to the Bulletin

Art students at Martinsville High School recently learned how their creative skills can be applied in the business world by tackling a real-life graphic design challenge.

A partnership between the school, Solid Stone Fabrics and the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. gave Randall Clay’s art students a once-in-a-lifetime assignment: Create a design to be printed on fabric and potentially sold to clients across the country.

The project started earlier this fall, when owner David Stone gave students a tour of Solid Stone Fabrics, a business in uptown Martinsville that creates and distributes custom specialty material for dance, gymnastics, swimwear, banners and carpet.

After getting inspiration from the tour, students were asked to design abstract patterns and graffiti-inspired word art that eventually could be made into anything from a dance leotard to a colorguard flag.

Out of more than 90 entries, Solid Stone chose three students’ artwork to turn into fabric: A colorful flower pattern by Cassie Roberts, a graffiti-style neon pink and green design reading “Jump” by Hayley Darden, and an intricate blue and green pattern by Tyler Jefferson.

The winners and 12 other finalists were recognized at Martinsville High School. Participating art classes received a pizza party provided by the EDC, while Solid Stone provided drinks and gave Walmart gift cards to all the finalists.

“They did a great job,” Stone said of the students’ work. The top three winners created “very marketable” designs, but “there were a lot of other entries that had a lot of promise,” he said.

“I want to thank Solid Stone and the EDC for giving our students this opportunity and inspiring this great artwork,” said Principal Aji Dixon. “The kids got to produce something that is tied to the real world. The lightbulb went off for some students as they realized, ‘I could do something like this.’”

This partnership is part of a larger push to bring more real-life, project-based learning into the classrooms of Martinsville schools, said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Angilee Downing.

She and Superintendent Pam Heath have been working to develop business partnerships in the community to give students career-based experiences and prepare them for successful employment. Lisa Fultz, director of the EDC’s Small, Minority and Entrepreneurial Division, connected them with Solid Stone, and the project was born.

“We talked about skills they look for in the workforce, and how the school division can help with economic development,” Downing said. The resulting art project “goes hand-in-hand with our mission of ‘Bringing Life to Learning.’ We’re working on developing a culture of career and college readiness in our students, so that they are prepared no matter what path they choose after high school.”

To accomplish this, schools are looking for “authentic learning opportunities, where students apply the skills they’ve learned in class to the real world,” she said.

Cassie, one of the student winners, said seeing her artwork printed on fabric was “exciting.” Working on a real-life project, she said, “makes you work harder so it looks decent. It gives you some working experience.”

Tyler said he spent five days working on his winning design. “I’ll be happy if it gets sold to somebody,” he said.

While most of Solid Stone’s business comes from out of town — the company has made fabrics for the 2012 summer Olympics, Disney and Sea World, to name a few — there is no reason its talent can’t be homegrown. During their tour of the facility, students met employee Chauncey Dandridge, a Bassett native who returned to the area after college and now is employed as a graphic designer.

“I hope they see that you can go to school, come back to Martinsville and find a good job,” Stone said. “If you have a good idea, you can make it happen. It’s not an impossible dream.”

Other contest finalists were Karina Altamirano, Shay Freeman, Makayla Hairston, Kara Hicks, Ahmad Manns, Brandon Purcell, NaDaisha Rucker, Crystal Sanchez, Destiny Thomas, Logan Turner and Taneka Vaughn.

(Kim Buck is the community outreach and grants coordinator for Martinsville City Schools.)


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