Picture a studio where young adults enter as students and leave as artists and entrepreneurs. Thanks to EdCorps, Hampton Creates studio at Hampton Middle School just north of Pittsburgh is a place where middle schoolers develop into insightful communicators, compassionate collaborators, confident problem solvers, and courageous creators.
Saying “Yes” to Great Student Ideas
In the 2017-18 school year, my 8th-grade students and I launched a student-run screenprinting business called Hampton Creates in partnership with the Real World Scholars. I thought building a business might be a valuable extension of the new middle school elective art course I was developing. I believed the entrepreneurial experience would broaden their art making purpose to design, create, use...and sell. Using the RWS resources (Ship It books, YouTube videos, RWS team, Slack, and more) helped me prepare for the conversations about entrepreneurship, which led to grand student ideas.
Growing as Problem-Solvers
Although I facilitated the process of building Hampton Creates, the students held the reigns. Initially tentative, the students made the most of the opportunity, investing themselves in the process, exercising and expanding their strengths and developing their communication and collaboration skills while working in self-selected teams (Sales, Outreach, Design, Production, and Accounting). One student expressed that she was surprised when she would come to me with a question and I would say, “I don’t know. What do you think?” We would brainstorm together, but I wanted the students to grow as critical thinkers and problem solvers when faced with real-world challenges. By the end of the course, the students would come to me and say, “We had this problem, but we did so much to solve it.” They now felt confident organizing an event, building a website, communicating with disgruntled customers, and troubleshooting production issues. Reflecting on what they found most valuable about the experience this past year, one student stated that they felt “...more confidence in myself and expressing myself through art.”
“Through this EdCorps experience, I grew as an educator and as a human. I became more comfortable answering "I don't know," and okay with asking for help. I learned alongside my students.”
~Kate Powell, Founder
Making Art Make a Difference
Another part of the EdCorps experience I found especially valuable was the opportunity to empower students to make a difference in the world with their art. The fall semester students were passionate about fighting home insecurity in Pittsburgh. The spring semester class wants to bring clean water to thirsty people. Their compassion and creativity inspire me daily and have ignited a culture of empathy in the larger Hampton community.
We made art. We made mistakes. We earned money to give to people who need it. We shipped. They entered the school year as students, but they leave as creatives who know how to ship.