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What’s Your SuperYOUpower?

How do you get a fourth grade student to engage in conceptual, inquiry-led creative work? Ask them about their “superYOUpowers.”

As Melanie Manos describes it, a superYOUpower is the thing that makes you extra special — it can be a strength, an interest, or something you’re especially proud of. In Manos’s course, Detroit Connections: In the Classroom, Stamps students spend a semester leading creative projects with elementary school students at Bennett Elementary School in Detroit. This November, Stampers worked with fourth graders to create superhero capes, a fibers-based project that taught ideation, problem solving, and creative confidence alongside the making process.

Stamps students began the two-day project with a writing prompt that asked Bennett students to think about what they’re good at, what they love, what spirit animal they would be (and why), and the real superheroes in their lives. The students spent time sketching their ideas, giving form to their reflections. By all accounts, ideation was a challenge for the students but one that yielded incredible results. “We had difficulty keeping the students engaged on the first day when we had them map out their ideas,” said Becca Weisz (BA ‘17). “However, almost all of them referred to their models when making their actual capes, and this allowed them to dive right in to working with the materials.”


During the making process on day two of the project, Stamps students took away the markers and paper, providing fibers only. “Even though they created something originally using paper and pencil, they had to translate the design to ribbon, fabric, glue, and other accessories,” said Sydney Shaffer (BFA, ‘18). “Limiting materials can challenge students to work with new techniques and processes previously unfamiliar to them,” Becca added.

Detroit Connections: In the Classroom gives Stamps students an opportunity to experience socially engaged creative practice, discover issues in urban education, and learn about perceptual developments that occur in childhood. But sometimes the learning outcomes are much simpler than that: “Just like the children, I shouldn’t rely on working with materials that I’m used to,” said Samantha Kravietz (BA ‘17). “It’s important for any artist to branch out.”


With Stamps students providing expertise, guidance, and mentored troubleshooting, Bennett students came away from the project with feelings of pride, ownership, and accomplishment in their work — not to mention an awesome new cape.

“My superpower is inspiring children to create,” said Marissa Andreou (BFA ‘18). “This power may have sparked a passion that will lead the Bennett students to something great when they grow up.”

Follow Melanie’s class on Tumblr: