At Notre Dame Preparatory School’s (NDP) annual Middle Level Arts Night in May, eighth grade parents excitedly pour into the art room to experience their daughters’ “Art Capstone” projects.Their daughters spend a good part of their eighth grade year devoted to research and self discovery, and the Art Capstone projects show the community just what the girls hope to bring to the world.
The Art Capstone project was created years ago by middle level art teacher Christian Leitch, who asks students to explore what they each ‘bring to the table.’ It’s a tangible question examined through the intangible. Leitch asks students “what gifts/talents/spirit do you bring to the table of life/society/your world?”
The project was inspired by The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago, which celebrates the empowerment of women throughout history and the gifts they bring to society. During their eighth grade year, students research a woman in history that inspires them, write a personal artist statement, and create a 3D place setting “installation” that demonstrates what they have learned — about the artist and themselves.
“It’s my hope that the girls will walk away from this experience with a better sense of self, a heart filled with compassion, the willingness to take chances to better the world and a spirit of empowerment to serve others using their gifts that God has given them,” explained Ms. Leitch.
She and her team of eighth grade advisors work closely with their students through the year to research a female from history that relates to their gifts and interests and has set the foundation for them. Through cross-curricular work in their Art and IDT (Innovate and Design Time) Labs, students design a 2- Dimensional floor tile that sits below their final work of art that demonstrates what they’ve learned. An artist statement is also written in poetry form, that serves as a self-reflection and helps the girls to put into words the explanation of their work, their gifts, their learning, and their self-growth. Students work together to design banners with a spiritual context that emphasize grace, service, compassion, and mercy for others.
The result of all of this hard work is not only an exciting art display, it’s also a glimpse into each girl’s world; a way for others to see the girls illuminate their gifts and interests, and a way for the students to learn how their gifts can transform the world.
“Every year, when we have our Art Capstone night for all to see, the parents read the artist statements, see the floor tiles, and engage in the Art Capstones. There are usually many remarks (and sometimes tears) on how they have found out more about their daughters through these works of art than they could have ever imagined,” shared Ms. Leitch. “We want our students to feel empowered, because they are finding their sense of self.”
Eighth Grade students at NDP are currently working on their Art Capstone projects to share with friends and family later in May.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of our School Spotlight Series. Each week, we will spotlight one of our partner schools to give you a glimpse into what learning looks like on their campus. To learn more about Notre Dame Preparatory School, visit their directory listing in our Independent School Directory. Want to become a school partner? Email us.