▲ Top, Mirunamu Top Art Education Space Founder and Director Cho Ki Seop. Photo by Kim Soo Yang, Students at the school are trained to think, plan, decide, and create art work with unabashed freedom. Photos courtesy Mirunamu Top Art Education Space
At the Mirunamu Top Art Education Space in Jeju City, you will not see a conventional art class where teachers simply dictate. Instead, students decide on art projects and how to go about accomplishing them, while only an overall theme is given by the teacher. For example, if a robot is the subject of study, a number of concepts need to be learned by students. These include the robot’s purpose, function, and how they intend to go about its construction.
In other words, how a robot looks should reflect the way the robot functions. To achieve this, students research the meaning behind the robot’s structure and develop each process to attain their goals, however difficult they may appear.
Founder and director Cho Ki Seop has brought a new method to Jeju known as project-based learning (PBL), which is pioneering new educational opportunities on the island. However, he told The Jeju Weekly that at first it was not easy to convince parents of this new paradigm in learning. The accepted wisdom for parents has always been that the only real purpose of education is to enter a good university. Cho found that while most parents agree with his philosophy, they were reluctant to apply this to their sons and daughters’ education. For the first year following the opening of the art school in January 2008, he found he needed to work part time to make ends meet.
Now, more than four years later, he is grateful to his students who have been there since the school’s inception, especially since many simply come and go due to the low educational status of art classes. He attributes the school’s success to the awareness by both parents and students of his heartfelt passion toward art education. He has convinced many parents through monthly presentations which focus on how the PBL method helps students learn. Through these presentations trust between teachers and parents has accumulated over the years.
Cho is well aware that communication with both parents and students is of paramount importance and has regular 10-minute briefings with parents when each class finishes. He also shares video recordings and photos of the classes’ art works. Cho says that these motivate the students because they make them feel like real artists holding their own exhibition. The latest display from the Mirunamu has been exhibited at the Jeju Starlight World in Jeju City from early June 2011, and the students are working on more handicrafts for the second display in early September.
He has always looked to differentiate his project from other art courses and in doing so has used it to offer opportunities for underprivileged children. One example of this was in 2009 during is his first public art class in conjunction with the Jeju Museum of Art, which provides learning opportunities away from isolated places such as children’s welfare institutions. He was able to budget for this by winning the 2009 Art Rich Program by Jeju Culture & Art Foundation. He also submitted the detailed plans and prepared the required human resources to get the go-ahead to start the class in the museum, and it is still running on an annual basis.
Once a week teachers from his institution visit the Sehwa Haebaragi Children Welfare Center to expand educational opportunities for disadvantaged children.
▲ Photos courtesy Mirunamu Top Art Education Space
In the project-based classes, students are encouraged to overcome obstacles by themselves. Teachers watch quietly and provide some guidance but emphasize that the students resolve the issues they face. Each project is mostly conducted on a group basis. Once a team is made, members rarely change, which helps build fellowship while solving problems through group discussion.
When The Weekly asked about the most rewarding moment of his job, Cho unhesitatingly affirmed that it is when he sees the change and growth in his students. His experience teaching children with autism and ADHD gave him an intuition that the experience of winning sympathy and sharing time and activities made a considerable improvement. He added that beyond any teaching theories, the simple truth of having someone to share experiences with has a curative effect.
Cho expressed his wish to be like a lighthouse and help guide students in life rather than just teach them art. He also shows his gratitude toward four other teachers at the institution who share the same education values as he does and do not hesitate to spend their energy and attention to fully support the children. He hopes that more and more art teachers apply their own philosophy to their teaching rather than just follow the rigours of preparing students for their entrance exams.
In summary, he says he learns from the students and grows with them as he teaches. Many observers would say he is teaching life while learning the art of living at the Mirunamu Top Art Education Space.
Cho Ki Seop is holding his first solo exhibition at Yeon Gallery from Aug. 25 to Aug. 31. Yeon Gallery is located in 6th floor, 583 Yeonbuk-ro, Jeju City (Tel. 064-757-4477).
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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