When art becomes technical

13th April 2007 at 01:00
A newly-formed department tested communication, team tactics and creativity during its product designing project

WHEN STEPHEN Duff arrived at Garnock Academy to lead the newly-formed department of art, design and technology, he felt the introduction of a cross-curricular project would strengthen the links between technical and art by exploiting the common theme of product design.

In essence, the pupils, working in teams, have five weeks to research, model and design a product for a restaurant of their choice. They have to use artistic, technical, IT, literacy, numeracy, communication and team-working skills.

For Mr Duff, the most important aim was to demonstrate the pupils'

creativity. But it also ticks the boxes in A Curriculum for Excellence - offering cross-curricular working, challenge, enjoyment and relevance.

While art and technical have different assessment criteria within the 5-14 guidelines, working together on this initiative means the teachers have to discuss and share pupil levels with each other. Assessments have to cover areas such as how well the pupils have listened to other group members and how good they are at helping one another.

Once the teacher has determined the make-up of the group, it cannot be changed. That offers another challenge - how well pupils can work with people they don't necessarily get on with.

Mr Duff believes the main benefits are: the ability to explore creative skills; confidence gained from group work and presentations; and the feeling of being in control of their work.

From the teacher's perspective, he admits it is an "uncomfortable"

experience - the pupils are in control of their work and not them.

Communication between the two teachers is the key to success, he believes.

The teachers need to hold regular sessions to talk about specific issues in the class.

But despite initial reservations, even older members of staff are coming round to the new approach, Mr Duff says. "Technical education has been stuck in the past for a long time - we need to bring teachers into a modern and exciting way of working. This project does that.

"It develops communication skills and it develops teaching styles. It encourages teachers to visit each other and do team teaching. It allows other teachers from other subject areas to see teaching in a different way.

Teachers are used to seeing colleagues from their own subject, but not others.

"I'd like to invite restaurant owners and managers for a presentation by all the S2 pupils. I'd like to incorporate more IT - for example, proper 3D modelling, or using Photoshop - but we are restricted in time."

At Christmas, when the S2 pupils had to choose their S3 courses, more (and higher ability) pupils this year chose art and technical than ever before - a vote with their feet.


The course is structured over five weeks before the October break and starts off with a series of short design challenges, such as "brick madness", where a team of pupils is given four sheets of newspaper and 100mm of masking tape and asked to build a structure that will support a brick. The aim is to establish team spirit, improve skills with unfamiliar materials, create a sense of competition in class, and inject a sense of pace into the project.

The main project is divided into six sections - design brief, research, ideas, planned solution, manufacture and evaluation. Pupils are required to design an object of their choosing for a "new" restaurant. It could be a lamp for a Chinese restaurant or a chair for an Italian restaurant.

The teams must follow the depart-ment's design brief and each member must play a role in the process. This includes producing a design folio and a 3D model of the solution. The model must be made from modelling materials (no wood, metal or plastic, which opens them up to the use of new materials).

The folio can be computer or paper-based, and the pupils must deliver a PowerPoint presentation to their classmates and an invited guest.

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