Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Arts in education in action...APAL style!


It is a fact that learning with and through the arts helps students in all grades and levels develop an understanding of not just the arts but important core curriculum subjects like math and science. APAL teaching artists are well versed in helping students of all ages connect to school subject matter by using their imagination and creating meaningful connections through drama, visual art, dance and music.

Witness what is happening at the South Atlanta High School of Law and Social Justice. Language Arts Teacher Celeste Archer and APAL Drama Teaching Artist Barry Stewart Mann are partnering on an arts infusion collaboration with students in two 11th Grade World Literature classes. The work builds on a two prior partnerships that examined the biology of HIV through Metaphor and Playwriting, and explored the dynamics of Social Health Crisis through Improvisation. They connect with a unit on Richard Matheson's novel "I Am Legend", and through that the Disease Awareness Project is guiding students to develop literary and artistic responses to disease. Each student is creating a portfolio of pieces that uses a composition or performance matched to a disease (breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, etc.) to explore human response to the challenges of illness. The students are given broad freedom for personal connection and expression, but are guiding their pieces for middle school audiences; the portfolios are being developed for presentation in performance and exhibit at two middle schools in Atlanta.

Examples of pieces in development by South Atlanta High students include a Fairy Tale about a queen whose love of feasting leads to diabetes, a board game about various pulmonary diseases, and a text message exchange in which two teenage friends wrestle with the challenges of abstinence and a dramatic play scene between characters named Blood and Influenza.

It's fascinating to watch the students connect to science through the arts and see how it helps them to learn, truly learn, about the physiology of and cause and effect in the human body, rather than stare at charts and learn stats by rote and try valiantly to retain information that often doesn’t seem relevant or interesting to them. When you can involve students in their own learning process in a creative manner, they learn.

Learning through the arts is learning for life.