Grading Graffiti

The days of true-false final exams are numbered.

Taking inspiration from last winter’s Spectacular Student Challenge — in which teams of Staples students worked for 12 hours to find ways to make Westport a more environmentally friendly town — English instructor Julia McNamee devised an innovative 2-hour final for her AP English class:  research, then solve, Staples’ graffiti problem.

Oh, and include a visual presentation too.

Last winter’s prize was $5,000.

This time around, students worked “only” for a grade.  But their results were impressive.

As part of their solution, Michael Findley, Farrel Levenson and Julie Lunde proposed letting students express themselves on a mural. They quickly created this specific example.

One group discovered that the University of Virginia drastically cut binge drinking by educating the campus on the subject.

Staples’ solution:  a community-wide effort, beginning the 1st week of school, involving television, newspapers and other media.

Another group learned that Mississippi State University offered money — donated by a local citizen — that increased each day the bathrooms remained clean.  The Stapleites’ solution built on that concept.

One more solution:  Showing a video in which custodians speak about their experiences removing graffiti from walls.

Yet another group explained why students “perpetually vilify” their own bathrooms:  “It’s the ultimate ‘screw you’ — rebellious yet anonymous.  It’s a ‘too-cool-for-school attitude that gives students power.”

Declaring alliteratively that “drawings of ducks and dicks” must stop, that group said:  “Take away the rebellious factor, and you take away the thrill.  If a roller-coaster didn’t defy laws of gravity, it wouldn’t be as appealing to teens.”

Will graffiti be eliminated at Staples because of Julia McNamee’s final exam efforts?

Probably not.

But it is one more indication that an emphasis on critical thinking and real-world problem-solving is firmly entrenched here.

Now, if only the SAT, ACT, AP, GRE, LSAT and MCAT followed suit…

4 responses to “Grading Graffiti

  1. Innocent Bystander

    A very interesting “out of the box” innovative way to teach and learn. I am sure Ms. McNamee’s efforts will always be remembered and hopefully, her methods of learning will be followed by her students in the future. Nice article.

  2. Super great idea! I am so glad to hear of some new ideas of teaching. Imagine if they spent the semester on Dante’s Inferno instead? My boomer generation had some great ideas but sort of sold out (our legacy may be making pot legal). I hope this new generation can start changing the world for the better for everyone!

  3. I liked the idea of anything to teach in a different manner. But I really did not know that Staples or Westport had a graffiti problem?

  4. Pingback: Update — Grading Graffiti « 06880