Artful Leadership

Online learning has its positives and negatives. Two young SGCS students recently discovered many of the positives when they embarked on a month-long Artful Leadership and Critical Thinking Program from Yale University.

Minami Vaughan (Year 9) and Jessie Rachman (Year 10) were only 2 of 22 students from across the world accepted into the online program.The program exposed the students to global experts and allowed them to interact with like-minded peers from around the world

The program aims to connect young learners with experienced faculty and help them develop critical thinking skills and evidence reasoning strategies in the arts as well as explore their own creativity.

Over four weeks the students will be mentored by Ximena Benavides, Yale University Lecturer, in the Harvard Graduate School of Education Project Zero’s Art of Looking Pedagogy and Visual Thinking Curriculum program.

Minami and Jessie are presently two weeks into the program. We asked them for their thoughts on the experience:

Minami Vaughan (Year 9)

There are 22 students from 12 countries participating in the Artful Leadership and Critical Thinking Program from Yale University. The program is highly collaborative. We are constantly asked to share our ideas on what we can see in an art piece. Afterwards we are separated into breakout rooms where we can talk about the art pieces. There are fewer people in this space, so it offers an opportunity to really get to know them. So far, we have learnt and practised how to deeply observe art and understand an artwork. We have also explored how empathy is the key to being a good leader and to critically observing art.

The program is presented from midnight to 3am in the morning (Sydney time). Although Jessie and I have to take a Zoom call late at night, it is very engaging and keeps me awake, and the two and a half hours go by in an instant. I am very glad that I applied!

Jessie Rachman (Year 10)

The Artful Leadership and Critical Thinking Program has presented me with many amazing opportunities.  The environment and nature of learning allowed the development of my leadership and communication skills. The experience was one of collaboration rather than competition.

There was no competition on who could answer the fastest, nor any comparisons made with other peoples’ opinions to determine whose interpretations are the ‘best’. All opinions were considered and used as a stepping-stone to understand the purpose of the art.

Once I understood that art is subjective and that there is no ‘right’ answer, I began to enjoy asking other people’s opinions and views. The more wildly different it was to my own, the more my view broadened, and I saw something else. There’s only so much detail you can notice on your own!

I believe the most important thing I learnt in this workshop so far, is how potentially fun and important teamwork can be. Ms Ximena Benavides, our mentor, enjoys placing us into breakout rooms to practice the ‘art of looking’ which she taught us. In that situation, sometimes you need to take initiative to start the conversation in the group. It takes courage, but once you know how to ask the right questions, that spark could cause a landslide of conversations.

Another revelation I had is that being a leader doesn’t always mean doing the challenging parts by yourself or volunteering to represent your group. It is being able to know what opportunities will let others develop and grow their skills. For example, after being split into breakout rooms, our mentor would ask someone in each group to represent the group’s findings. I was the person who would usually share, but I learnt to give the opportunity to someone else who might need it more in order to develop their own public speaking skills.

Words cannot express how thankful I am for St George Christian School and especially Mrs Erwin’s encouragement for me to nominate for the Artful Leadership and Critical Thinking Program from Yale University. It has spiraled into so many opportunities and experiences I never dreamed possible.