Best of the Week 2021-2022: Excellence in College Prep
STUDENTS BRING THEIR DESIGNS TO LIFE AND LEARN TO TELL STORIES THROUGH CUSTOM-MADE SNEAKERS
SneakerhEDS, a new shoe designing club at St. Edward High School, seeks to inspire students to express themselves through design, to build relationships via a shared love of pop culture and creating sneakers together, to demonstrate an interdisciplinary perspective by fusing the design process and storytelling, and to give back to our community. With the hope to create something artistic, expressive, and functional, Associate Dean of Academics & IB Coordinator Nick Kuhar combined his passions to form SneakerhEDS and encourages his students to spark inspiration through collaboration and to form a greater appreciation by creating something from scratch. As an introductory experience to SneakerhEDS, Edsmen participated in an empathy-focused experiment, taking a custom-designed pair of St. Ed's shoes and wearing them for 24 hours. During this time, students physically "walked in someone else's shoes" and were tasked with reflecting on a disagreement or challenging conversation they had with a fellow classmate and to consciously switch their mentality to consider the other person's perspective and empathize with their feelings. After 24 hours, students wrote one word on the pair of shoes that described their reflection experience and to hand-off the shoes to the classmate they wished to resolve their differences with.
With a more hands-on approach, students in Mr. Kuhar's Honors English I classes and IB cohort have been designing their own pairs of sneakers that express their identity. Teams of students have collaboratively been working together to sketch designs for each shoe, select textiles and materials to bring their designs to life, and learn how to use a sewing machine to connect their patterns and see the shoes become three-dimensional. "IB gives us a platform to help our students see meaningful connections across disciplines and expand their sense not only of how connected all knowledge is, but also who they can become in their four years at St. Ed's. A healthy, meaningful dash of design in an English class might awaken the student who has siloed himself as an 'English student' to the power of design-based thinking, and vice versa," says Mr. Kuhar. "At the end of the day, the goal is for our students to see meaningful connections between storytelling, empathy and design. Our IB Statement of Inquiry is 'the best designers are the most empathetic listeners.' Students worked in small groups to discuss the 'ethos' or spirit of their designs, listened to each others' perception of who they are as individuals, and then translated that spirit into the aesthetics of the sneaker itself. My hope is that our interdisciplinary approach at St. Ed's makes it crystal-clear to our students how being open minded, and in this case cross-pollinating language and design, can be so enriching. My intuition is that marrying the technical skills with nuances of storytelling makes for a deeper appreciation of both fields."