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Beauty As The Downfall

School: NuVu: The Innovation School

City/State: Cambridge, MA

Grade(s): 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Format(s): Visual arts

Subject(s): Science and Technology, Visual Arts

Project Overview

As part of an “Empathy For The Endangered” studio, students studied how the Black Lace Cactus which once populated the Texas Gulf Coast is now endangered. People recognized the beauty of the blooms that the Black Lace Cactus evolved to protect itself. Wanting to take this beauty with them, people constantly picked the plant. Working with the theme of beauty leading to one’s downfall, students devised a dress with orbs to represent the cacti, some of which have spikes pointing inward, making the dress painful to the wearer. In this way, students created an experience to build empathy for this endangered species.  

At NuVu, an innovation school in Cambridge, MA, middle and high school students learn in an open and flexible space that is more akin to an architecture studio than a classroom. Some students attend NuVu for a two-week intensive and for others it is their full-time high school.

Instead of one-hour classes and separate subjects, students engage in solving a problem through multi-disciplinary learning, all day, for two weeks. Groups of twelve students collaborate on the creative process, with expert guidance from two coaches who have expertise in a related field. Throughout the process, students conduct precedent research, engage in brainstorming, render drafts of their ideas, create prototypes and write and reflect on their findings and processes. Their work is captured in a portfolio along with documentation of the final products they debut at the end of each studio session. These portfolios are publically viewable on NuVu’s website.

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • A wonderful model of empowering students to make a difference through STEAM
  • Exemplary model of students responding to a social problem, using critique and descriptive feedback to refine a product to a level of high quality
  • This project validates fashion as more than merely a means of personal expression as it elevates fashion design as a tool for social justice
  • Beautiful example of iteration in the design process as evidenced by thorough documentation

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