When the first bunch of new
“designers” was ready to move to the
next step, we set up a small office
space in a corner of the classroom.
Here they participated in a formal
interview, complete with a manager,
a review of their documents, and a
defense of their designs. Initially, I
was the manager, but I
company. These students were
responsible for being the interviewers
and the camera operators (we tried
to videotape each interview). In the
meantime, the students who needed
more time were able to devote their
attention to their blueprints.
low, or blue. On the board there are
corresponding colors with a job listed
next to each color.
During set-up or clean-up, students
were responsible for doing their part.
This system allowed them to see that
if they do their small part, the big
job gets done. The colors that they
stay the same
unit and the
rotate the colors
on the board.
This way, stu-
dents don’t feel that they are “stuck”
doing the same job over and over
Studio time is spent utilizing
blueprints and early sketches to aid
in the construction of the clay prototype. Students invested more in
the creative process when they saw
how their ideas have changed and
evolved since the initial challenge
was set before them. They realized
that moving from an abstract concept, to a two-dimensional design,
to a three-dimensional sculpture
requires planning, perseverance, and
understanding of formal concepts.
Each shoe sculpture must be a unique
design that solves a problem, has
some remarkable special features,
pays homage to a favorite person, or
has other superlatives in its description (i.e., most comfortable slipper,
best hiking shoe, etc.).
Students were challenged to
apply for a job by submitting
an application, a large blueprint
of their proposed design, and a
signed company contract.
When students have had their new
sculpture fired, and they have painted
and added all their details to the surface, they were asked to reflect on the
entire process. The class, as a group,
had a formal critique that focused on
the diversity and complexity of the
design solutions. Each “designer” was
asked to write a letter to a real shoe
company to articulately persuade the
company why their new prototype
would be a wonderful addition to
their latest shoe line.
This real-world job concept can
be implemented with any number
of “products.” I have had seventh
graders making mini clay guitars,
sixth graders making prototype clay
watches, and I’ve even tried designing
skateboards with my eighth graders. I
invite you to try it.
The Construction of a Prototype
Once students completed their two-dimensional designs and a large percentage conclude their interviews,
it is time to move on to the three-dimensional construction of the prototype shoes.
We worked at a scale half-size of
an authentic shoe (this saves materials and avoids some storage issues).
Formal hand-building demonstrations
were given and studio time was maximized by the inclusion of another job
structure. Each student was assigned
one of four job colors: red, green, yel-
Andrew Katz is visual arts coordinator and middle school visual thinking
instructor at the Key School in Annapolis,
Students use subjects, themes, and
symbols that demonstrate knowledge
of contexts, values, and aesthetics
that communicate intended meaning