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James Henderson, Executive Director of Arts & Scraps

Using recycled industrial materials to enhance educational experiences, Arts & Scraps is dedicated to expanding science, technology, engineering and math education for metro Detroit’s students.

Photo by Lauren Jeziorski

Integrating art into education is an important part of the learning process – and Arts & Scraps has been a key supporter of it for past 28 years.

“One of the things that I realized with Arts & Scraps and ‘art’ being in the name, so many people just assume that we’re more arts and culture,” Arts & Scraps director James Henderson says. “But our focus is actually with our education curriculum and our programming. More on STEAM and STEM programming focus with education and arts integration than anything else.”

Henderson, who took on the top spot at Arts & Scraps in October 2016 after founding executive director Peg Upmeyer retired, has spent his entire career in education. A graduate of Michigan State University’s College of Education, he has worked as both a principal and superintendent in schools in Lansing.

“I wanted to be part of a nonprofit organization that was just focused on the outcome of what’s best for the kids,” Henderson says.

Since its founding in 1989, Arts & Scraps has reached 2 million children through its programming, which includes school field trip visits and scrap lab workshops. Every year, the organization accepts about 28 tons of recycled material donated from over 200 different businesses and over 12,000 volunteer hours.

“In the state of Michigan, you’re looking at two very dynamic differences, separated by less than an hour. You look at the city of Ann Arbor, that was just rated the most educated city in the United States, where one out of every four adults has a degree or has some kind of aptitude,” Henderson says. “Now you come to Detroit where you’re looking at historical levels of 50 to 60 percent of functional illiteracy.”

Arts & Scraps has been a resource to Detroit’s educators since its inception, and it plans to grow this outreach in the future. Just recently, the organization was able to bring its art integrated programming to every fifth grader in the Detroit Public Schools Community District – over 3,000 kids.

“We want to work with these teachers. Our data tells us that you’re looking at probably 70 to 80 percent of teachers right now that have their certificate in fields other than the sciences,” Henderson says. “We want to have some professional development programming to help teachers feel confident in these subject areas so they can deliver these special instructions to their kids.

“People that know Arts & Scraps know that we are focused on our mission of using these materials to help students, families (and) adults across the spectrum think, create and learn.”

Get crafty

In addition to its storefront, Arts & Scraps holds regular workshops and open lab time for families and small groups. Get more information at artsandscraps.org or by calling 313-640-4411.

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