As a new art teacher at Merrimack High School, professional glass artist Carolyn Rordam had a dream of bringing glass art to her students.
She felt the windows in the “catwalk hallway” were screaming for stained glass. Now in its fourth year, the glass art class is working towards the completion of a fourth stained glass window for the school. Students demonstrate competency in art and design, and use mathematics and engineering to construct and install the windows. Part of Rordam's professional background lies in glass research and design, and she uses her expertise to teach students about the chemical make-up of glass, as well as the processes of chemistry that go into creating a successful sample.
"I have been able to bring... students into the hot glass world. It is a once in a lifetime experience for many and completely altered their understanding of what is possible in the world of glass art,” said Rordam, "in addition, glass can enhance a student’s self-confidence by succeeding at an unusual and difficult art medium".
Students sell their small projects online and at craft fairs throughout the year to pay for their supplies.
After several successful years of glass class, students began to be interested in creating a glass club to expand their knowledge and to fund-raise for more advanced opportunities that would be impossible to provide during school hours. The money that the students raised went toward endeavors like field trips, in one case to Terrapin Glassblowing Studio in Rindge, NH. Trips like these encouraged students to look around their community for the arts that so engaged them.
Students’ continued enthusiasm for this art, which had been around for over five thousand years, has led to increased glass art course offerings, with three sections of twenty students scheduled each day. The "Stained Glass Club" now has sixteen members.
Merrimack is one of the only known high school level glass programs in the state.