Texas Tech University :: School Of Art

Dreams on Wheels Made Possible by Visual Studies Seniors
by: Daniel Horsch

Gathering a group of 47 kids is not an easy task. Their minds wander through an infinite number of thoughts.  From silly to somber, from happy to sad, from interested to flat out bored.  Educators have constantly pondered the best way to keep kids interested.  Methods of bribery used during the kindergarten years do not work as well on middle school aged kids, but two Texas Tech student teachers from the Visual Studies program seemed to have unlocked a gold mine on wheels.

This year students from Atkins Middle School and Hodges Elementary were given the rare opportunity to let their imaginations run wild.  With the help from T-STEM, an educational organization that promotes science, technology, engineering, and math, 47 students were given Shwinn bikes to create their own masterpieces. Future Akins-Tillett, an assistant professor of visual studies, said 47 students were chosen to participate in the event called, The Low Rider/Dream Bike Project.

“It began as the art bike project, but when we added the concept of the low riders and encouraged the kids to dream, that’s what we came up with.” Akins, who also oversees the development of student teachers from the Texas Tech School of Art, said she was fortunate to have two great student teachers to help the kids at each one of the participating schools.  David Wragg and Scott Klingle, are senior Visual Studies students, who student teach at Atkins Middle School and Hodges elementary, respectively. With their combined expertise in art and mechanics, Wragg and Klingle were the perfect candidates to help teach and guide young imaginative minds.

Wragg, who worked with the students from Atkins, had his own makeshift workshop in an already crowded art room.  Bike frames stood next to one another, end by end, stretching from each end of the room.  Although Wragg had his hands full, he said his job was rewarding. “I’ve never been involved with something so large. This goes way beyond the realm of student teaching,” Wragg explained.  Easily outnumbered by the students, Wragg said that it actually helped because the students were able to do a lot of the work themselves. “I’m not sanding the bikes for them. We are trying to get their creative juices flowing.” While the students had a limited budget on supplies, for the most part students were allowed to dream up just about anything.  Many of the low-rider bicycles were adorned with large handle bars, elaborate decals, and crazy paint schemes.

For Atkins Middle School Principal, Chris Huber, the collaboration between the Texas Tech student teachers and his students proved to be more then just an art project. “When you put all these people together with our faculty and our kids, it was a really good illustration of what a powerful opportunity we can provide kids when everybody works together.” Lynn Brown, an art teacher at Atkins Middle School, couldn’t agree more.  Brown, who saw her classroom transform into a bike workshop, said students gained a valuable learning experience by mixing science with art.

“It gives them experience in using tools and that helps them reason through how to put something together and put it back,” Brown explained. “It’s the first art project that they can see and ride.” As for the students, they couldn’t be any happier. A free bike would have been too easy, but a bike that students create on their own make for memories that will last a lifetime. Stretched to their creative limit, all the students were proud and eager to talk about their bikes. “We enjoy this project, we actually really learn from our science.  Like how the bike functions…,” said Atkins Middle School student Gabby Gonzales. “It takes a lot of effort to put in to build a bike project.” Another Atkins student, Taylor Monroe, explained how the students are in control of the exact specifications of their bikes. “We have to use a lot of drawings because if we want our cut out we have to draw hot it looks,” Monroe said. “If we want a color, we have to have the same exact color and everything.”

Allowing the students to work with their hands and create something from their own designs was the key to success for the Low-Rider Art Project.  More importantly, students benefited by using a variety of higher order thinking skills to create something unique. Scott Klingle, who student taught at Hodges Elementary, related to some of his younger students. “When I was younger I was fascinated by things that I could take apart and put back together.” While Klingle admitted to a few long nights and an uneventful Spring Break, the smiles on his students’ faces kept him motivated. “It makes me happy that these kids are learning about art and science and having a blast,” Klingle said. “They’re all learning life lessons through art.”

Four months and 50 bikes later, all the hard work paid off.  On April 18, 2008, the Texas Tech School of Art hosted the Low-Rider Parade, presented by each and every one of the kids and their bikes.  On a perfect Friday afternoon, alongside their parents and guests, the Art-building courtyard was filled with the students and their bikes as if they were preparing for the start of the Tour De France.  While there was no racing involved, the students cruised on their new “tricked out” low-rider bikes around and around the courtyard.  Guests were treated to a variety of bikes that came in all different styles, colors, and imaginative add-ons.  As shades of color flashed with every passing bike and occasional sound of a horn, nobody was happier then David Wragg. With a wrench in one hand and a smile from ear to ear, Wragg couldn’t have been more pleased with the event’s success. “There is still some work to do, but the bikes look great and the kids are happy.That’s all that matters!” With just over a month left of school, students will have time to add some final touches to complete their bikes just in time for summer.  While each and every bike is one of a kind, there is only one question that remains; who will have the coolest low-rider bike on the block?

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