Problem-Solving from a Lowrider Perspective
April 22, 2008
Students from Atkins Middle School designed and built custom lowrider bikes as part of a school-wide project designed to teach problem-solving skills and reinforce science concepts.
Over the past two months, 48 middle school students from Atkins have been working with Texas Tech Visual Studies students in their art and science classes to create the custom-designed bikes. The 6th and 7th graders were given a budget and timeline to complete the project along with a Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycle, purchased by the T-STEM Center. Everything else was left up to the students' imaginations.
The finished lowrider creations showcase a mix of art, science and engineering concepts. But what started science teacher Dawn Bullock's wheels turning were the critical thinking skills that students developed. "Mostly it's the problem solving that I'm really excited about, because our students need to be able to take content they've learned in any area, apply it and solve problems."
Those reasoning skills will be put to the test as students gear up for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills - the state-mandated exam that evaluates student learning.
This year's project marks the fourth time that the Texas Tech University School of Art has worked with K-12 students in the Lubbock community on lowrider bikes. However, this is the first year that the outreach project has been integrated into the classroom curriculum. The T-STEM Center worked with Atkins teachers and volunteers from the School of Art to find ways that the project could reinforce what the students were learning in their science and math classes.
"When teachers and administrators find ways to integrate real-world projects into classroom learning, it's the students that win," said John Chandler, Ph.D., a director of the T-STEM Center.
"Incorporating the problem-solving challenges of designing a lowrider bike into students' science and math classes, opens up new possibilities for engaging students in a context that they care about. Seeing these lowrider bikes designed by the Atkins students illustrates the benefits of what can happen when universities give back to their communities."
For Atkins Principal Chris Huber, an integrated learning approach and community support were the keys to the project's successes.
"Students learned in a truly interdisciplinary fashion, as they learned from and worked with artists, engineers, and people from niches in the community. The practical application of academic skills impacted students very positively."
Teachers working on the project also took away more than a new-found appreciation for lowriders.
"The Atkins teachers on the project were affirmed that their efforts in the classroom every day are preparing students for students' future roles as problem solvers," said Huber. "The opportunity to work this closely with people with different work experience and educational perspectives was invaluable."
But the students emerged as the big winners. All 48 artists will take home their one-of-a-kind creations, as well as some newly-honed problem solving skills, just in time for summer fun on the streets of Lubbock.
- Texas Tech University School of Art
- Texas Tech University T-STEM Center
- Texas Education Agency State Engineering and Science Recruitment (SENSR) Fund
- Helen Jones Foundation
- CH Foundation
- Texas Tech University Student Cultural Activities Fee
- Stray Dog Gallery
- Tornado Gallery
- Texas Tech University Police Department
Atkins Middle School
Part of the Lubbock Independent School District, Atkins Middle School serves a student population that is 79 percent minority and 78 percent from economically disadvantaged families.