Leah Hamilton French was born and raised in Cambridge, MA. The daughter of a museum professional and a craftsman, she had a lot of exposure to the arts as a child. In and out of school she immersed herself in various art forms – piano, signing, ceramics, drawing, and theater. Following her senior year of high school, French combined her love of acting with her interest in making things, competing in the PBS engineering reality show Design Squad: Season 2. In each episode, contestants designed and built solutions to engineering tasks. The best part, according to French, was learning how to use all the tools in the shop. “Before we started filming, they gave us a crash course in the design process, from drafting to test models, to final product. It was really empowering to realize, hey, if I can dream it, I can draw it, and if I can draw it, I can build it.”
French attended Wellesley College, where she majored in Anthropology and French Cultural studies, and joined Teach for America shortly after commencement. As a pre-kindergarten teacher, French found that a curriculum infused with art, math, and science was the best way to engage her young students. Painting and drawing strengthened her students’ early literacy and fine motor skills. Playing with clay and making collage developed their early math skills, like spatial awareness, pattern recognition, and naming, rotating, and tessellating shapes.
Upon moving to Houston, TX, French decided to explore a different approach to education. She worked for Writers in the Schools (WITS), teaching creative writing to young students in the Houston public schools, and loved how easy it was to bring art into those lessons. Currently, she works as a museum educator at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. She loves that her job combines several of her passions – art, specifically craft, and education. At the moment, French’s pet project is creating downloadable lesson plans that integrate craft into core subjects. “For me, because I have that experience with art, and math, and engineering, I see how they all fit together. I also have experience as a teacher, and know there are only so many hours in the day. I wanted to create a resource to help teachers easily connect art to the math, science, and language arts concepts they are already teaching. When you can find a way to tie it all together, you produce well rounded students, who then become more creative and innovative citizens.”
For more information visit www.cstem.org.