Parker Academy Student Accepted to RIT

Jessie Bair, graduating in 2020, was offered early acceptance into RIT, School of Illustration. 

We are so excited for Jessie Bair, a member of our 2020 Senior class, who has just been accepted through early decision to her first choice of colleges- Rochester Institute of Technology where she will be majoring in Illustration. Jessie’s goal is to become a writer and illustrator of children and young adult books.

Jessie has always enjoyed and excelled in the arts, taking every art class that Parker Academy has to offer. She enjoys Drawing and Painting the most, but has had a lot of fun working in Ceramics, too. Her favorite medium is watercolor and colored pencils which she uses to create her favorite subject- mythical creatures. One such work, titled “The Hippocampus” was displayed in Crust and Crumb in downtown Concord. 

Jessie first came to Parker Academy part time for tutoring, but it was soon after that she enrolled full time as a Freshman. Prior to Parker Academy, she had been home schooled by her parents. Jessie lives in Epsom with her parents and two older brothers. 

Congratulations, Jessie. We are so proud of you, and we look forward to hearing all about your upcoming adventures. 

Jesse RIT Bound

Jesse Artwork

Congratulations Parker Academy 2019 Graduates!

Parker-Academy-2019-GraduatesParker Academy celebrates its 2019 Graduates. This small, yet diverse, group of students has come a long way. They each should be extremely proud of their accomplishments. We certainly are!

All of these students have grown and shared so much with each other. The bonds they have developed are almost like they are all members of the same band, playing Rock N Roll music together….and that is not just because they are loud!

Good luck graduates!

Don’t be strangers.

Parker Academy’s Applied Arts Program

At Parker Academy we believe the work we are doing with our students is really important. We are hoping to have an ongoing dialogue with the people and programs that make Parker Academy what it is.

Today we are getting to know more about the Parker Academy Applied Arts Program. Like most of the arts, this program is expressive and intuitive; and we are spending time with applied arts teacher, Sheldon Cassady, to find out a little more about why this program is so important in socializing, student success, and harboring creativity throughout a lifetime.

Your shop class is part of the visual arts program at Parker Academy, what makes your class differ from the fine arts?

My class differs from the fine arts because it’s applied. Which means it deals with the application of design and aesthetics [to objects of function] and their everyday use. The creating we deal with is more industrial design oriented, furniture or machinery, welding- that kind of thing. However, my background is in fine arts, so it does have an artistic flare, but it tends to be more applied.

“Whether the students realize it or not, it is mostly socialization skills and team building.”

We don’t see this class existing in a lot of middle and high schools currently. What do you think the benefit of having a class like this is?

A lot of why we can offer this class is because of the nature of the school. Whether the students realize it or not, it is mostly socialization skills and team building. We are creating a space to have an introduction to the shop, and expose them to things that they might not get to be doing outside of this class. It is really exciting to see when it all comes together. We have had our students go on to college or trade schools to continue with things like welding or mechanics that they have gotten a taste of and enjoyed. Our small class sizes [usually three to five students] help with tailoring projects and maintaining safety. There are very few accidents due to everyone following the rules and a lot of individual attention.

Being an artist yourself, how do you think that translates into how you teach your students?

As an artist I understand that it is the process that is important to me. Rather than just give them a blue print or rubric, I make them design their own projects. The students create the prototypes that they use here. I stress the part of the brain that has to develop the thing, as much as the thing itself. A lot of kids at this age do not have the ability to make something exquisite. I tell them I would rather have them make ten mediocre pieces building up to the good one, than beat one thing to death. Due to skill level, I choose to stress the creative side of what they are doing, and how it is going to work, rather than the end result.

“It gives them a level of achievement that is important in growing. I think we undervalue these successes because we do it all the time as adults.”

What are some of the core lessons and important concepts that you incorporate into your classroom?

The important concepts vary so much because of the individual nature of what we do. Right now, I have one class where we are focusing on team building. Students are learning how to work together as a cohesive unit to create something. It has less to do with product or personal development with those kids right now. We are lucky enough to able to be flexible with these kids. They are here, in applied arts, for other reasons. From emotional issues, isolation, home schooled and the need to practice social skills- to autism etc. It’s hard to pin point. As a teacher you accept the child’s individual profile and move into a place that they can thrive. You find out who the student is and how to help them through the process of making things. It’s amazing to see the satisfaction when they finish a project. You have to realize that some of these kids have never really had a success like this before. Maybe they are not as good at reading or math, but they just made a beautiful wooden bowl. It gives them a level of achievement that is important in growing. I think we undervalue these successes because we do it all the time as adults. But for some of these students to be able to make something, have it function, and be beautiful- it really makes them want to go on and proceed with making more things. We have some emotional kids that really need some positivity in what they are doing. It is a physical thing they can hold and see the success in.

Found object sculpture

“I know how it sounds, but the best part of this, the thing that I am most happy about achieving is- every now and then you really get success with a child. You see them go on to something great.”

What are some materials you utilize in this class?

As far as materials go, whatever we want to work with. My background is in wood but I have also been a mechanic. We work with a number of materials but it really varies on the student’s interest. Sculptures are made from found objects to car parts. I try to be flexible and work in the direction of the students for the most part. Sometimes we are limited by the tools we may or may not have, such as glass work. These road blocks allow us to problem solve and find different avenues to create our projects.

What do you think is the most interesting thing that your class has accomplished?

We have had so many amazing accomplishments over the years. One of my favorites was a 14-foot sailboat, another time we made ten little skiffs, rowboats. Students built them all in one year, and different classes worked on them in teams. At the end of the year they got to row around in the pond together after graduation. It was really neat to see. In reality we make so many different things, bike part chairs, mousetrap race cars. Some of the little things are really great too. There have been small metal boxes that students have soldered together with different kinds of metal that came out really nice, artsy, and exceptional. I know how it sounds, but the best part of this, the thing that I am most happy about achieving is- every now and then you really get success with a child. You see them go on to something great. They really respond to whatever it is you were doing at the time. Sometimes it surprises you how much of an effect you have had on them. The product here is really inconsequential, and to focus on that I think would be a mistake. We are makers, learning through the process of our own ideas, to produce something that is uniquely our own.

“We are makers, learning through the process of our own ideas, to produce something that is uniquely our own.”

Taking Part: Empty Bowls

Empty Bowls is a grassroots international fundraiser to relieve hunger. Parker Academy has been involved with Empty Bowls for at least ten years as an annual effort to raise awareness of hunger and support food security in our local area.
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4 stages of bowl making: from forming and decorating clay, under glazing, glazing, and firing

Everyone in the Parker Community is able to participate in this event. Parents, staff and even former students, provide soups and breads for the evening. Students of all levels enrolled in ceramics classes create the bowls, and a student volunteer group transforms the “big room” into a dining room for our event.

To make the bowls, we use a method of hand building so that all students can participate and a potter’s wheel is not needed. The students experience the entire process from forming to loading and unloading the kiln. After the dinner students have the satisfaction of knowing their efforts provided food for others.

This event has become a joyful celebration of community at Parker Academy. When we all work together we can not only share a meal, but give to others as well.

Parker Academy Drinking Water Passes Lead Test

Our drinking water was recently tested by Eastern Analytical, Inc. in accordance with Senate Bill 247, Prevention of Childhood Lead Poisoning, and the NH Department of Education. The results of the testing show that the level of lead in our drinking water was well below the recommended maximum allowable level of .015.

Parker Academy’s Fine Arts Program

At Parker Academy we believe the work we are doing with our students is really important. We are hoping to have an ongoing dialogue with the people and programs that make Parker Academy what it is.

Today we are getting to know more about the Parker Academy Fine Arts Program. Like most of the arts, this program is expressive and intuitive; and we are spending time with art teacher, Deborah Mahar, to find out a little more about why this program is so important in creating focus and harboring creativity throughout a lifetime.

Parker Academy has a full-time art teacher/program, which is amazing. What do you think the benefits are?

Having a full-time art teacher allows for the arts to be more accessible for students. It can fit more readily into their schedules and allows more students to participate in the art program. They are exposed to the arts all day while walking by, visiting, or seeing someone with a piece they have created. The students have an art room and supplies that are accessible to them for other classes as well. “I need a ruler. Can I have some paint? Can you help me figure out the best way to do this?” are just a few of the more common requests. During most of our lunch periods, students drop by the art room to stop in and create. That is another measure of accessibility. The arts are all around them and in whichever way they want to approach it throughout the day.

“Our art program here is unique. I sometimes use the phrase the ‘one room school house’ to describe us because we base our teaching on the needs of the individual.”

How do you think Parker Academy’s art program differs from other programs you have been involved in, do you see a difference?

Our art program here is unique. I sometimes use the phrase the ‘one room school house’ to describe us because we base our teaching on the needs of the individual. Our program is choice-based with opportunities to develop skills built into the planning. Art classes, like the rest of the school, provide a strength based, co-regulating environment. We are flexible enough to let student interests guide us. Our courses are wonderfully designed to match with the students I have and I think that is a huge difference. Although we teach specific skills sequentially where needed, we do not let prerequisites dictate experimentation with mediums or styles. Within a group of four or five students, there might be a different approach depending on what they have done before. I stay flexible within lesson plans creating new experiences. Courses change and adapt to who’s here, verses having students adapt to what is available. Which is perfect for art, because there are not really any prerequisites when it comes to creativity.

What are some of the different mediums the kids use and learn in class?

We have a large variety of mediums for a small school. Students have access to a wide range of drawing and painting materials as well as opportunities to explore printmaking, ceramics and 2 and 3 D Design. Which is another reason it is great with Sheldon next door, he is an asset. There is some noise, but we have accessible materials and other equipment there if needed. The way that we work together opens up a lot of possibilities for our students to explore.

Speaking of Sheldon, I know he has a different program than yours, but can you talk about why having his classroom next to yours is a great chance to collaborate?

We are lucky to be able to collaborate with our applied arts teacher. Sheldon Cassady works with three-dimensional materials on a regular basis. Some of his students are engaged in 3-D art projects, whether it is in wood, metal sculptures or simply using recycled materials. So, it’s a different kind of shop class; students are not all making the same bookshelf. They are definitely working along the same lines as I would, in which the student’s interests are first and foremost. We start with what they are interested in and find ways to keep them exploring that.  We collaborate a lot, there is a back and forth between the shop and art students, (we are quieter) but other than that, we share and engage in each other’s materials and creativity.

“They are definitely working along the same lines as I would, in which the student’s interests are first and foremost. We start with what they are interested in and find ways to keep them exploring that.”

What is the importance of creating art with your hands?

Art is a natural for engagement in active learning. The process requires both a different mindset and a different set of skills than other disciplines. It’s more intuitive. I think the hands and brain coordination is crucial to the full development as a human. We enjoy using our hands and it is important to the well-being of all people. Right from the beginning, when I am teaching world history, we talk about being able to create and make things. We all have that innate compacity and desire to create. We often use the arts in other courses to study what human beings were expressing in the past or present cultures, and how people feel about the world.

Do you teach them anything about the creative process?

It is important to focus on the creative process. A lot of it has to do with the progression of initiating an idea. How do you get started, how do you find and nurture the seed of an idea? I’ll give them something to start with, a prompt or an assignment, but I think it’s about how you plant the seed. How do you design, how do you see how many different ways you can solve the problem? That is very important to me. When they ask, “Why do I have to do three or four drafts?” We talk about how much we can learn through seeing the progression of attempts and the process of seeing the work evolve from start to finish. It may look very different in the end. In that sense, the creative process helps them to put more of themselves into their art work. The process of finding an idea and then developing and nurturing that idea is a way of exploring themselves and their own creativity. I think it is important to learn how to become flexible enough to say it is not working and I am going to try a different avenue. Learning that it’s okay for me to say, “That didn’t work so I am going to try something different.” That is an important key emphasis in any classroom.

“The process of finding an idea and then developing and nurturing that idea is a way of exploring themselves and their own creativity.”

How does the creative process help them throughout their lives?

The creative process that they learn about and practice will help them throughout their lives and in many fields of endeavor. I am oriented towards that long holistic view of how art can be important to them. I believe that planting a desire to continue with the arts in some why throughout their life is something I really want to encourage as a teacher. Making sure they know, “You can do this, you can sketch, you can make things, you can take a class, you can visit museums, you can create a space in your life for this kind of activity.” So, I think this is a really important aspect of being an art teacher.

We know that viewing and creating art can be very therapeutic. Do you see this come out in your classroom at all?

Art is very therapeutic. Another way that art helps bring out the best in our students is that it helps them develop the ability to concentrate and maintain their focus. When they’re very engaged in something they sort of move into another realm. I think it helps them to just take a break from pressure and stress, allowing them to be in the moment. Watching them work in a very concentrated way, when they get lost in it, their worrying about the future or stressing over the past dissipates. Being “in the moment” fosters an inner peacefulness, giving an opportunity to feel at ease with what is happening.

Do you see any behavioral changes when that happens? [Creating art].

I can see students calming down when they get engaged and start to focus a little more in one area. It is really important for students to be able to express something that interests them. Although I am not an art therapist, it is clear to see these effects everyday. What we are doing here is working with a particular population of students and meeting their specific needs. So, for some students, things like visual journaling or simply being able to put something on paper, provides relief. Art is such an amazing outlet for our students. It gives them multiple ways to explore and express what they are feeling.

Visit to the ICA, Boston

“Being ‘in the moment‘ fosters an inner peacefulness, giving an opportunity to feel at ease with what is happening.”

What is the importance of being creative while staying within the parameters?

There is a very conscious process behind what we try to do with art here. It includes teaching specific techniques and skills. We cannot create what we envision without developing and marshaling our skills. This depends on where the student is experience wise, and how much skill building is needed. Once they are open to that, setting the parameters within which they can proceed helps them develop the skills that will allow them to express themselves. If it is a wide-open world, you may feel lost if you do not have much in your tool kit. I think that the skills we teach gives them some grounding.  From there, I am very happy to see it develop into something else. So, setting parameters around learning the needed skills is important.

Your students participate in Empty Bowls every year as a creative service project. What goes into this process?

We believe that it is important to keep our students aware of the larger community around them and instill in them a sense of service.  This is especially important for our developing artists. Each year we participate in the “Empty Bowls” initiative, where we help raise funds to support those in need. It begins with students learning to make a ceramic bowl and some of the properties of clay. Some students who have already had the class come in and are ready to roll. Other students learn how to form, attach, and glaze. It involves the repetition of the same shape, which is very much about production ceramics work. They enjoy this so much that it’s easy to forget they are taking part in a community service project.

That is a good reminder. To elaborate on that, how do you view art as important to and for the entire community?

More and more artists are expressing their reactions and responses to social issues. There is more public and performance art, which means more opportunities to see artists and their work. You can see creatives on the forefront, often commenting on social change or as Marshall McLuhan put it, “Being the antenna of the society.” It’s good to be in tune with what’s going on. Sometimes finding respect as an artist can be somewhat challenging. It is important for the students to take time with the process and feel that they can make a difference by creating something. I believe this to be a worthwhile way for them to view art.

Thank you so much for letting us know about this fantastic program, is there anything else you would like to share?

I believe the main thing we do here, and I think that the rest of our staff would agree, is reach out to each student. We try to find a way to meet them. We have small classes of four or five students, with different types of kids with multiple backgrounds. By focusing on their strengths and giving them a say in what and how they learn, they feel more connected.  Art is a special part of this and it is gratifying to see the successes that our students have.

“By focusing on their strengths and giving them a say in what and how they learn, they feel more connected. Art is a special part of this and it is gratifying to see the successes that our students have. “

Five Ways to Help Teens Think Beyond Themselves

By Amy Eva

Teens can seem self-centered sometimes, can’t they? They’re still supposed to be developing the capacity to see beyond themselves. They can also seem to lack a strong sense of purpose —and that’s not surprising either, because the ability to think about other people is developmentally linked with a sense of purpose. “Purpose is a part of one’s personal search for meaning, but it also has an external component, the desire to make a difference in the world, to contribute to matters larger than the self.” Some researchers call this external component the beyond-the-self dimension of purpose: Why am I here? What role can I play in the lives of those around me?

A new study of adolescents and emerging adults confirms that many young adults simply do not exhibit a beyond-the-self dimension of purpose. In fact, a beyond-the-self intention is even “atypical” of adolescents, according to researchers. That being the case, how can we as parents and educators help them to find that intention? Here are five research-based ways to inspire teens to connect with something larger than themselves:

1. Support teens beyond their self-interests: Get to know the passions of the teens in your life. Do they love caring for little children or animals? Do they talk a lot about sustainability? Is there a political cause that they want to support?

“Purposeful youth described getting encouragement for their interests rather than hearing the more general encouragement to get good grades and go to college,” says Stanford psychologist Heather Malin, director of research at Stanford’s Center on Adolescence. “Some reported getting material and social support for their “beyond-the-self” interests.” For example, parents or caregivers might buy them books relevant to their interests, give them rides to volunteer work, or invite their child to volunteer at their workplace.

When adolescents can find clubs or structured school activities that connect with their broader interests, they are likely to become more personally motivated and engaged in those activities. If we encourage teens in pursuing their “beyond-the-self” interests, they are also more likely to have a stronger sense of purpose in the world.

2. Discuss values and character strengths: Perhaps one of the most powerful ways to foster a beyond-the-self intention in teens is through reflection on their values and opportunities to act on those values. “Purposeful teens talk about big, abstract values (equality, diversity, justice, etc.) more so than non-purposeful teens,” says Malin. It’s crucial for them to have “opportunities to write about or discuss the things that matter most, especially in terms of the values they want to live by.” One way to get youth to think about their own values is through discussions with their peers and their parents. This helps students to identify potential character strengths (kindness, teamwork, fairness, and leadership) envision ways to act on them.

3. Facilitate activities that enhance empathy and perspective-taking: Another practical way to nurture beyond-the-self thinking is through learning experiences that focus on empathy. Consider keeping a journal in tandem with reading a novel, where students record immediate responses as if they were the book’s central character, literally stepping into someone’s shoes and imagining the perspective of the person who might wear them.

Developing empathy and being able to take the perspective of others takes time. It is a long, one might say a life-long, process. Parents play a pivotal role in this, as do teachers and peers. The key is to watch and learn, then act.

4. Expose teens to diverse perspectives: There is a powerful argument for diversity in schools and classrooms. A recent study of several thousand middle schoolers suggests that students feel safer, less bullied, and less lonely in more racially balanced classrooms. But there may be other important benefits. If children and teens are exposed to a range of emotional styles and different ways of thinking and being, they may be more likely to engage in prosocial (kind and helpful) behavior.

Because teens, in particular, have an increased cognitive capacity for perspective-taking, this is an important time to expose them to many different ways of thinking and being. Teachers might consider inviting a range of guest speakers to the classroom, regularly planning for cooperative learning activities with mixed groups of students, and leading interactive, inquiry-based learning experiences that feature service-learning activities nearby.

5. Model empathy and prosocial behavior as an adult: Finally, when parents and caregivers model empathy and find ways to contribute to their own communities, they encourage their kids to do the same. Thanks to a motivated network of moms at school, for example, my daughter has been able to make blankets for local refugees, participate in food drives, and regularly volunteer at an organization that provides diapers and baby supplies for families who need them.

In this divisive political climate, however, some of us may be struggling to engage in our communities. We may feel exhausted or discouraged; we may even feel like hiding. It can feel daunting to reach out in a world that feels topsy-turvy. If this is the case, it’s so important to nurture our innate capacity for caring.

During a time when we are bombarded with images of self-interest, it may be important to think beyond ourselves. Ultimately, good intentions can expand to broader questions of purpose and role where we can all ask ourselves not only “Who am I?” but “Who am I in this world?” and “What can I contribute?”