Salesian College Preparatory Is a Force for Good, Encouraging Critical Thinking and Artistic Expression

At Salesian College Preparatory, we offer rich avenues for the development of critical thinking and social action in young leaders. 

We value the arts and artistic expression, and consider them vital to one’s development. Recent events have caused us to renew our focus on social justice, equity and belonging. Salesian teachers Debra Shushan (department chair of visual and performing arts) and Dr. William Heidenfeldt (French teacher and instructional coach) worked with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)’s collection to bring art and social justice together through their involvement in the museum’s Teacher Advisory Group. 

SFMOMA established the Teacher Advisory Group in 2016. Heidenfeldt represented Salesian in 2017 and 2019, developing art-making and language-developing units for international students and intermediate French students. This year, Shushan joined Heidenfeldt in the group. 

In Salesian’s art program, Shushan invites students to employ learning routines inspired by her formation in the Artful Thinking Palette, emerging from Harvard’s Project Zero. The concepts of the Artful Thinking Palette include “reasoning, questioning and investigating, exploring viewpoints, comparing and connecting, observing and describing, and finding complexity.” Artful Thinking routines are “short, easy-to-learn mini strategies that extend and deepen students’ thinking and become part of the fabric of everyday classroom life. They are used flexibly and repeatedly — with art, and with a wide variety of topics in the curriculum.” 

Students in second-year art and third-year French were able to explore their own social and political interests by studying the political posters Shushan and Heidenfeldt selected from the collection. 

The posters themselves varied in artistic style, social issues and language, and invited students to engage with political and social history. As a result of their critical engagement with these artifacts from SFMOMA, students in both classes used different approaches to making their posters. Additionally, posters (some employing three languages) reflected the lived multilingual experiences of students.

Salesian students created posters with themes from social reform to climate change awareness two issues that have greatly impacted our community, particularly amid ongoing police violence and wildfires which have ravaged the West Coast.  The students produced striking images that cut to the core of some of the most prevalent issues in our world today, demonstrating awareness and a passion for change and progress.

Through encounters with the SFMOMA collection, the Artful Thinking approach and international history, students are capable of using art to express themselves and their desired changes in the world. They then bring those ideals and essential lessons with them outside the classroom. Salesian prides itself on its ability to allow students to flourish and brighten the world with their creativity, passions and courage by providing a nourishing environment and many opportunities to apply what they have learned outside of the classroom. In turn, the students make the world around them a more just, equal and loving place in which all belong.

To learn more about Salesian College Preparatory, please visit our website. 

Salesian students’ political posters were featured at SFMOMA. View our students’ unique perspectives on relevant issues.

Salesian offers music history, theory and technology, along with the primary focus of group performance. Listen to how students are encouraged to develop their gifts and talents.