Milton art teacher earns spot as Generator’s first educator-in-residence

 

MHS art teacher Courtney Reckord works on a project with student Chris Schlegel. (Photo by Stephanie Castle)

Courtney Reckord believes kids are our best hope to solve real-world problems.

Reckord, an artist and teacher, has been at Milton High School for the past eight years and says she is humbled by the ingenuity of her students.

“I am always looking for fun ways to engage my students,” she said. “The more real world it is, the more engaging it’s going to be.”

She has a chance to do more of this as the first educator-in-residence at Generator, the Burlington-based artist and maker community. The two-month residency gives Reckord a space at Generator’s new South End location, 24/7 access to tools and a moderate stipend to create her work.

Along with teaching visual art, metalworking and sculpture, Reckord offered her first-ever “maker” class last year. Students were drawn in with the promise of designing and fabricating their own skateboard.

“Many times, I assign homework, and it doesn’t get completed, but with the maker class, the students were so enthusiastic because they really wanted to see their skateboards finished,” she said with a laugh.

Students in the maker class created the skateboards entirely by hand without the use of machines.

Reckord, used the Generator laser tool to etch the students’ work into their skateboards. Being a member there has offered Reckord other benefits, too.

“The great thing about Generator is that it connects you to such a broad community and exposes you to so many different people and ideas,” she said.

One such idea was to let students create a working prosthetic limb for a dog using a 3D-printed model. The idea was inspired by watching a Maker Talk, in which Boston students created a prosthetic limb for a person who wanted to draw, she said.

Over the winter, Reckord applied for a grant to complete the prosthesis and earned a spot as Generator’s first educator-in-residence. She has a small group of dedicated students and hopes to complete the prosthesis this spring.

There’s only one catch.

“I don’t have a dog yet,” she said with a laugh. “It has been harder than I thought to find the right dog because they need to have 50 percent of their leg remaining.”

Once the right dog is found, the students will team up to develop models. Designs will be cast using the school’s 3D printer and then made using thermoplastic, a durable and formable material.

The dog’s owner will choose the best design based on their pet’s specific needs, and the students will then work together to complete the prosthesis. Once completed, the limb will be supplied to the dog’s owner, free of charge.

“Students always ask me when they will use this or that after they leave school. The maker class has been such a great way for them to engage with real world problems. They are learning because they are invested in the process,” Reckord said.

The Milton educator hopes to offer more maker classes in the future and is currently thinking of possible topics.

“Art is so good at problem solving,” she said. “It is the perfect place to bring together students with interests in different subjects who are looking to be engaged and solve real problems.”

If you have a dog that you think may be a good candidate for a prosthetic limb, contact Reckord at creckord@mymtsd-vt.org.

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