Darron Cambra, a 1998 graduate of the University Laboratory School, became the latest graduate to return to the Laboratory School when he joined the English section in January as a ninth grade English teacher. Matt Miller, a 1979 graduate, was one of the first to return when he began teaching art in 1995. Both contribute to the unique educational experience students at the Laboratory School have by providing a rich and meaningful exposure to art in Miller’s case, and poetry in Cambra’s.
All students in grades six through twelve at the Laboratory School take art as a required core subject every year. The department’s programs are designed so that by the time students leave ULS, they will have experienced the visual arts in its many forms—drawing and painting, ceramics, sculpture, textiles, and printmaking—and developed significant skills in an area of their choosing.
Matt Miller, who teaches drawing and painting, credits his experience as a ULS student with directly impacting his adult life. Today he is a practicing artist, art educator, and musician, and he feels that these are a direct result of the opportunities he had to explore both art and music in depth as a student at ULS. While he recognizes that not every student is destined to become an artist, Miller is happy to have the chance to mentor those who do have an interest in the arts, and he hopes that all students gain an appreciation and understanding of visual arts that will stick with them through their adult life.
Miller’s studio classes focus on giving his students the ability to understand color theory, value, shape and line, composition, and technique. They work from observation to help develop and strengthen their drawing abilities. Students also work with digital photography to create source material for self-portraiture and landscape.
National Scholastic Art Exhibition Gold Key awards recipients
This year, six of Miller’s students won Gold Key awards in the Hawai‘i Region of the National Scholastic Art Exhibition, a recognition that qualified them to represent Hawai‘i in the national competition. One of those students, Sarah Cockett won a National Gold Key for her self-portait.
Another student, Tomy Takemura, won 2nd place in the Congressional Art Exhibition for her pastel painting “Last Refuge.”
Darron Cambra, who returned to ULS to teach in January 2008, brings his experience as a poet and performer to ULS where he is refocusing the ninth grade curriculum around poetry. “Spoken word as an art form covers the language art’s holy trinity of reading, writing, and oral communication,” Cambra said. “Using spoken word from active poets also helps spark interest with the students because there is a direct relevance to their own lives.”
The CRDG-developed Golden Triangle program is used in all secondary English classes at ULS, and Cambra is applying the three points of the triangle—daily dictation sentence for grammar study, daily journal freewriting, and daily reading aloud—through the study of poetry. His focus is on encouraging every student to find his or her own voice and to develop into a performer through the medium of spoken word. The course starts by comparing the classics to contemporary hip-hop, exploring both how they differ and what they have in common. Throughout the course, students begin to identify the tools of poetry and to develop the skills involved in writing poetry.
According to Cambra, “spoken word is a free verse genre where all rules can be stretched. But before students can stretch the rules, they have to know something about poetry, and that comes from learning the basics and from a lot of practice writing and performing.”
Cambra has self-published his first collection of poetry, True Confessions of a Compulsive Liar, and has released a CD with the same name.