No Age Limit on Dreaming: Sonya Cordova’s 6th Grade Class
words & images // Brian Moughty & Austin Jermacans
4Cent Friday is a design blog on SoleCollector.com written by a member of the 4Cent Design team. Subjects may range from discussing rendering skills to design inspirations, to thoughts and opinions on the state of footwear design as a whole. For more background on 4Cent Design, check our interview here.
The footwear design circle is very small, and thanks to the Internet, it makes it even smaller. For years now designers have taken advantage of it, by communicating, posting designs, networking, getting jobs, but mostly, to learn and grow. It has become common to not only give feedback, but also receive it between designers, who a lot of the times have never even met. It's also a strong reason behind the way 4 Cent came into existence. So while it is not uncommon to get an email from an aspiring designer asking for help, I received one from Sonya Cordova, which was very intriguing.
Sonya is a 6th grade teacher at Canton Elementary in Atlanta, Georgia. She came across 4 Cent when searching the web, because she was introducing a new unit to her students, an “Athletic Shoe Unit.” Sonya was looking for help and someone to talk to both her and the students a little more about the industry. While I was very excited about it, and thought it was very cool, a couple emails later would let me see exactly how deep she was diving into this, and it surprised me. She had a VERY in-depth lesson plan for the students. It covered everything from writing skills, vocabulary, foot knowledge, art skills, model making, communication and technology.
Sonya had asked if any of the 4 Cent members would be able to speak with the students via skype to help inspire them to think outside the box and look at other possible careers besides being a pro-athlete. While Austin and I are currently in Portland, we were more than happy to do this, but I also thought it would be of interest to someone who has been in the industry a lot longer than us, and is aligned with his current career path. D’Wayne Edwards, the former Design Director of Jordan, and founder of Pensole Academy, also agreed to get on the call. Since he is currently running his own footwear design school, this was a perfect chance for him to share his experience with an even younger age group and allow the kids to know there is even more schooling for them in the future if footwear is a path they are interested in.
We got on the skype call, with all 99 6th grade students that had been taking part in their own footwear projects. I was surprised at how excited the kids were for this. It is one thing to have a group of industrial design students listening, but to have 6th grade students new to the subject, as intrigued as they were was amazing. They hung on to every word we said, with full attention. While I expected them to be more interested in just seeing shoes, or what athletes D’Wayne has worked with, they actually had numerous questions about D’Wayne's school, Pensole, and how they could become part of it in the future. The session actually had to end early due to the period being over, but tons of questions still went unanswered. It was great to see that much excitement from the kids, at such a young age.
Sonya then told me later in an email how excited the kids were to see opportunities for them in the future and how there are other cool career paths besides being an athlete or rapper. They went home to even read more about 4 Cent and saw D’Wayne in numerous articles and told their teacher how they couldn’t believe they actually got to talk to them.
I also asked her to send some samples of their work, and weeks later she did, which was once again even more in-depth than I thought. The course ran for 4-weeks with the classes being 80 minutes long. The students wrote persuasive essays, researched, presented, got into some technical writing, vocabulary, revisions, worked in groups, designed their shoe, made their shoe and even made commercials for their shoe. Sonya not only covered many subjects important for students to learn but made it through a unique way that could help inspire them to find a career path, even if it’s not necessarily footwear.
While the students not only studied the history of footwear, they also did activities to see how the foot worked, and took roles as Athletes to look for what they would want in a shoe. One part included writing to Nike as a professional athlete, telling them what they need. It was a great way to apply their learnings in school to pop-culture and athletes they admire, and to see one day they could actually be working with someone like a Michael Jordan. (The 6th graders definitely lost it when they found out D’Wayne has met him.)
After Sonya sent her lesson plan and samples of the student’s work, we at 4 Cent took a few of them and gave our vision of their designs, to help bring them one step closer to life. Check out four of the student's designs and our renderings below.
In the end, Sonya sparked the student's interests, by giving them a unique lesson plan that many of us wish we had while we were young. We discovered our passion on our own, because many times in school, students are not presented with careers they can take part in or learn how to get involved at a young age. While most of the students may not follow through with footwear, they know now to pick their passion and look at the different opportunities that go along with it, like sports or drawing.
This was her first year doing this, but she plans to do it for many years to come. Some of these students may indeed have had an eye-opening experience, and may actually have D’Wayne as an instructor one day at Pensole. The future of footwear begins to get brighter, and if 4 Cent ever needs designers to take our place, we know Sonya Cordova’s class would be a good place to start.
I would like to thank Sonya Cordova for allowing us to be part of this, D’Wayne Edwards for joining us, and of course for the 6th grade students who welcomed us, and continue to chase their dreams.
Look out for more entries every Friday from 4Cent Design, and be sure to check 4CentDesign.com and follow the guys on Twitter and Facebook. If there are any speciifc topics you'd like them to discuss, please leave some suggestions in the comments section.