Punahou started its 2020-2021 school year in a distance learning setting with a new block schedule. Hands-on art classes were forced to drastically change or even cancel their classes, but thanks to teachers’ creative solutions these classes have been able to adjust and provide a very meaningful experience for their students.
Classes started in a distance learning format in March 2020 and have had time to develop over the summer. Two major subjects of the Visual Arts Department at Punahou that were affected by this change were glass blowing and ceramics. These classes depend heavily on their studios on campus. Punahou is trying its best to ensure that students are able to take the classes they originally signed up for, but teachers have had trouble replicating their classes and have been forced to adapt to the new conditions.
Teachers of the Visual Arts Department have come up with creative solutions that resemble their class in a distance learning setting.
Mark Mitsuda is the instructor for glass blowing 1 and 2. Glass blowing is almost impossible to do at home without a studio, but Mr. Mitsuda has come up with the next best thing. In his class students began to use a computer aided design (CAD) program, called OnShape. This tool allowed them to recreate three dimensional pieces that used the core principles of glass blowing. This program also allowed the students to adjust the proportions and shape of their pieces.
“You are forced to understand the material from this academic cognitive approach….The glass itself can be a distraction,” said Mark Mitsuda.
Mr. Mitsuda expressed how he has always wanted to try a block schedule like this and said, “It’s better to practice every day for an hour then 8 hours right before your lesson.”
Later in the semester, glass students will submit some of their digital work to be recreated by teachers in the glass shop. Students will then eventually get to pick their pieces up and take them home.
Ceramics is also finding ways to operate under a distance learning program. At registration, ceramics students were given a 25 pound block of clay, a turntable, and a board. Students are able to learn about ceramics and get familiar with the material. The class has a lot of independent time working on projects and pieces. Throughout the block, students are able to conference with the teacher for advice and help. One of the hardest parts of distance learning expressed by teachers was getting feedback to students on their work.
Ceramics students also have scheduled pick up and drop off days on campus where they can get more clay and drop off pieces to be fired and glazed. Pieces will eventually come back to students fully fired which teachers believe simulates the original class quite well.
Dan Harano, the ceramics 1 and 2 teacher talked about distance learning saying, “it got me more comfortable with canvas.”
Mr. Harano created an online portfolio of demos for students to show examples and techniques that help them learn about ceramics.
“Distance learning has forced me to move what has been for thousands of years an analog way of learning into a digital format,” said Mr. Harano.
Kate Blanchette ’21 participated in glass blowing 1 before it switched to distance learning and enrolled in glass blowing 2 online.
“I appreciate the glass a lot more because our digital pieces allow us to focus on core principles of glass and forces us to focus much more on each design,” said Kate.
When teachers and students go back to school, both teachers expressed confidence that they would be able to teach their class effectively while still social distancing. The ceramics studio has moved the pottery wheels around and bought extra tools and buckets so each student can have their own eliminating cross contamination. They have painted the studio to make clean up easier and more effective.
Teachers are excited as they prepare the studios, and are waiting for students to return.