Through the Eyes of an Educator
Growing Young Artists 


SUMMER, 2018
By: Teddy Wingert

It began seven years ago when the SCA approached Fennville Public Schools with a project-based learning approach that would change hundreds of lives for years to come. The SCA’s Growing Young Artists program has developed a partnership with FPS that takes place during their summer school migrant program. GYA is comprised of SCA Instructors, Artist in Residence, students and Fennville educators.

With low test scores and uncertain home lives, many Fennville students are required to attend summer school, while others have a different story. Studies have shown that 85 percent of low test scores are from intentional non-learners, while 40 percent of students do not feel safe and 35 percent do not have an adult they can trust. Fennville Middle School Principal Kim Zybel shared that she had a handful of students visit her and beg to attend summer school. With summer school enrollment at a height, FPS aimed to transform the way students perceive school. This led to adopting GYA to serve traditional at-risk students along with migrant students.

Integrating art into the classroom and giving students the opportunity to express themselves has created opportunities for students to form relationships with each other, SCA instructors and Fennville educators. GYA curriculum is formed to process emotions through writing prompts and what they choose to display in their art. This outward processing develops communication skills and allows students and educators to share their lives with one another.

Sixth and seventh grade Fennville teacher Alex Best shared about his experience with relationship building.


“The relationships I’ve formed with students in these 3 weeks are more intentional than those I’ve formed all school year. I’m excited to see how these relationships transition throughout the school year.”


Adopting GYA to serve at-risk summer school children has been very successful and has allowed students to discover the joy in learning. “These kids are happy, they feel safe. They are engaging with the content and are excited to come to summer school,” said Best.

This year’s three-week GYA program will be celebrated in downtown Fennville with a community celebration. Student artwork will be on display in a collaborative flag project that gives students a sense of empowerment and pride. “It’s not just another assignment in the textbook. This shows the community that our students are thoughtful, talented and capable,” said Zybel.

GYA incorporates a variety of approaches to create a wholesome growth-filled experience for all parties involved. Not only does it bring them joy, but the attendance and test score data have proven that the SCA’s GYA program does indeed work. Zybel shares her advice for districts considering to adopt this project-based learning approach. “You will have skepticism. It is real. Your skepticism will be blown away. Growing Young Artists takes enjoyment and engagement and multiplies it.”

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