Art Teacher Takes a Unique Approach to Bringing Out Students’ Creativity

Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

Michael Hollis has been teaching art at the Soboba Reservation School in southern California for the last five years where he has been instructing his students the various forms of art. It wasn’t long, however, before he came to the realization that high school age students quickly grow disinterested in just about anything that isn’t on their cell phones and that he would have to implement some instructional creativity in order to keep his students engaged in the things he was teaching them.

Hollis says that he is grateful for the opportunity that he has been given to “expose [students] to things they expressed an interest in” but that even though students may have a genuine and sincere interest in art, they can become bored very easily. Hollis’s solution was to “apply art concepts to functional items” and the results he says could not have been better.

The history of Native Americans includes telling stories in uniquely creative ways such as through jewelry, weaved baskets, and pictographs. As such, Hollis has turned his classes into a forum for the same type of expression where students can create items that have a practical purpose but which also relay a story that they want to tell.

He has been able to teach such skills and techniques as airbrushing and silk-screen processing by instructing students on how to transfer their storytelling artwork onto t-shirts and other everyday items.

He has taught them how to conceptualize and design rubber masks that express their individuality. Once students have finished the design phase of their masks, they use packing clay and Styrofoam wigs to “bring their design into reality”. But rubber masks and airbrushed t-shirts are only the beginning of what Hollis has to offer his students in the way of learning art.

His students continually praise him for allowing them to “always do something new and different” and for opening their eyes to the limitless world of art.