Broken glass, empty soup cans, and packaging foam. To many of us these items could be described in one simple word: trash. But to the Advance Placement (AP) 3-D design students at Buena Park High School, the items that we deem useless and throw away are the very materials they use to create intricate, abstract and unconventional art.
Marjorie Brown began the AP 3-D design class at Buena Park high school after feeling her students and her own need for a challenge. During the 2011-2012 school year, Brown taught her first AP 3-D design class with 17 students enrolled. Each student created 18 original pieces to submit and when the scores came back from the College Board over the summer Brown was stunned at the results.
“We had 15 of the 17 pass the exam,” Brown said. “I was shocked. I had people tell me maybe one or two would pass, so having that many of them do well, I was just so excited.”
Brown’s teaching style is simple. She encourages the students to think outside the box and see everything as a possibility for art. The idea to use recyclable materials for art came out of necessity but worked out to her advantage.
“I can’t afford expensive art materials so I bring in recyclable materials that are around me and at the school and I encourage them to do the same,” Brown said. “I want them to think beyond the obvious and be really innovative with their work.”
Walking around the classroom the creativity is evident. Cardboard dresses, mechanical spiders and a mother’s womb made out of paper maché are just a few of the pieces the students are diligently tinkering with throughout the class period.
Senior Anthony Nieto decided on the theme of cans for his 18-piece collection. He said cans are perfect because they come in all shapes and sizes and are easy to manipulate. An artist at heart, Nieto says taking the class pushed him to think of art differently.
“I’m not that academic; I’m more on the artistic side so (I took this class) to kind of challenge myself in art,” Nieto said. “I’ve learned to expand my mind and look at the possibility. Nothing is trash to me anymore, everything is art.”
Senior Daisy Espinoza said she was hesitant about how she would create art from random materials but then quickly realized the infinite potential.
“As I got into this class I started to enjoy creating stuff out of recyclable things. I started getting inspired by all the materials,” said Espinoza. “I want to go to be a fashion designer so I try to use and make things that have to do with that.”
The higher level of the class intimidated some students when registering, but when they learned of the college credit that would be offered it motivated them to rise to the challenge.
Sophomore Varelans Martinez was one of those students and was also anxious because this would be his first AP course.
“At first I wanted to take auto shop but I got put into this class by accident I guess” said Martinez. “Most classes that are mainstream you just learn what they teach. An AP class takes it one step further and lets you use your brain a little bit more. “
Though Martinez plans to pursue a career in science or medicine after high school, he said the lessons he has learned in this class have been very valuable.
“I didn’t like art at the beginning but I got more into it because you get to imagine something and bring it to life,” said Martinez. “It’s not like a sport or like math class, you get to create something and that gives you a sense of control.”
Buena Park High School is a Title I school with 70 percent of students coming from low-income families. Because of this, teachers like Brown are more motivated to have students take and pass AP exams to show students the possibility of a higher education.
“It’s such an opportunity for them for them to take a college class,” Brown said. “They need that incentive… so I go in thinking 100 percent of them will pass. Because if you believe it, they’ll believe it and they’ll make it happen.”
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