If you’re not familiar with Pages, it’s a nearly decade-old program for high-schoolers, using the contemporary arts to spark critical thinking and writing. Spearheaded by the Wex, it involves myriad players—devoted teachers, willing schools (seven this past year, eight coming up), committed artists, community partners, Wex educators (led by Pages creator Dionne Custer Edwards), and about 200 students each year.
With schools and teachers focused on Core Curriculum and state requirements, a rigorous, out-of-the-box program like Pages isn’t easy to pull off. A yearlong commitment, it includes visits to the Wex (for a visual arts, film, and performing arts experience), pre-sessions, post-sessions, writing in a variety of forms, discussion, art-making, an open mic, an exhibition, and a book publication at the end of the school year. Students learn how to think more creatively and critically, how to write more cogently and expressively, and how to talk more clearly and confidently about art.
But don’t just take our word for it: We brought in an external evaluation firm, Randi Korn & Associates, based in Alexandria, VA, to follow and evaluate Pages this past school year. The firm used quantitative and qualitative methods, including scored pre- and post-assessments of writing, student interviews, and stakeholder interviews. The study showed that “Pages undoubtedly affects students’ lens on the world, opening up their minds to various forms of art, ideas, and styles of writing.”
A few more excerpts from the nearly 40-page report:
- Findings “demonstrate that the program deepens students’ learning and has a tremendous impact on the way students experience art and writing.”
- Results indicate that the program “has a direct and measurable effect on students’ creative problem solving and critical thinking, not an easy task for a museum-based program.”
- Three-quarters of students scored higher on observation after the program, meaning “their descriptions of works were more specific, detailed, and/or nuanced than they were before.”
- The program “had a positive impact” on four areas of writing evaluated: language and description; language and meaning; composition and style; and intention and perspective.
- In interviews, students said they became more confident in their writing, “noting their increased joy in writing, the ownership and pride they feel over their writing, and the lack of inhibition they feel about sharing themselves personally and emotionally.” Similarly, teachers described “students’ desire to write more, their newfound understanding of the great variety of works of art and writing styles, and their abilities to express themselves creatively through writing.”
- Teachers spoke highly of the professional development components of Pages, from planning discussions among the teachers to the Pages blog. One described “the creativity in teaching that Pages nurtures”; another was pleased with “the way it shifted my position in the classroom as a teacher” to more of a collaborator and learner alongside the students.
- One student noted, “Just this year, working with Pages has opened up my writing capabilities that I didn’t know I had. I’ve actually gone on to write huge essays and poetry of all kinds.” Another said, “My writing has become more me, if that makes sense.” Yet another mentioned that the writing assignments took [him/her] “out of my comfort zone but it definitely made me a better writer.” The art experiences, too, were addressed: Pages “brought me closer to [art],” one student said, “something I didn’t count as valid before, and now it’s one of the most important things to me.”
Pages has touched about 1,800 high-school students over the years; this year, it welcomes students from Arts and College Preparatory Academy, Columbus Alternative, Delaware Area Career Center, Delaware Hayes, Franklin Heights, Mosaic, Pickerington Central, and Whetstone.
Watch for news about a public reading and exhibition in the spring, part of an ongoing partnership between the Wexner Center and the Columbus Metropolitan Library.