Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Art From the Start

Grade-A ideas

From virtual-reality science instruction to meditation for teachers, these approaches aim to reinvigorate education for all ages.

Full text of this article available at:

The current rage in education is STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. But creative types are working valiantly to turn STEM into STEAM – with the A standing for the arts. At the Boston Arts Academy, for instance, the arts are infused in every subject. While creative pursuits are often the first to go when budgets are cut, this high school continues to innovate as it engages students through the arts. The ninth grade just wrapped up a unit on African civilization with a multimedia celebration called “Africa Lives.” The students got their hands dirty. And they mastered the material.

“High school shouldn’t be a preparation for life,” says co-headmaster Linda Nathan. “It should be life.”

Nathan is not alone in her belief that the arts foster deep learning. Young Audiences of Massachusetts, a nonprofit that brings artists into schools, is inaugurating an arts integration program at the Salemwood Elementary School in Malden this fall. Visiting artists will help teachers incorporate the arts into the literacy and social studies curriculums. If the pilot program takes off, Young Audiences hopes to make it a model for other Extended Learning Time schools like Salemwood. Explains executive director Diane Michalowski Freedland: “We need to think big.”

Way Beyond Latin Steven Berbeco is a self-described “language nerd” who studied Arabic long before it became fashionable, and he was a pioneer when he began teaching the language at Charlestown High School a few years ago. Today, more and more public and private schools here and nationwide are offering Arabic, and classes at schools in Cambridge, Norwell, and other communities fill up as soon as they are offered.

While the teaching of French and German has decreased in high schools across the country, Arabic is on the rise. The federal government supports Arabic instruction through several grant programs. “They see it as a real necessity for security and diplomacy issues,” says Nancy Rhodes of the Washington-based Center for Applied Linguistics.

But some students also see it as a chance to stand out on college applications. “They want to be special,” says Berbeco. His students get to test their language chops, but they also gain a deeper understanding of other cultures. And being a high school Arabic student has its perks. Just last month, the Palestinian hip-hop band Da Arabian MCs played a concert at Charlestown High.

Making College Stick Today’s mantra about education is that students must be college- or career-ready when they graduate from high school. But nationally, 89 percent of first-generation college students drop out before receiving a diploma. That statistic horrified Dennis Littky, so last fall he and a colleague started College Unbound, a collaboration with Roger Williams University in Providence funded by the Lumina Foundation. Students spend 20 hours a week in an internship and study a curriculum that relates to their work. They live together while sharing chores and ideas.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries. Get your FREE E-book, “If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.

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