The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

August 14, 2010

Teachers learn in summer school

DANVILLE — While students found ways to spend summertime freedom, a group of Danville High School teachers went behind closed doors practicing new ways to inspire and educate them.

In June, teachers associated with the new arts-based ACE House underwent training for the Leonard Bernstein-inspired Artful Learning program.

For a week, teachers became students and the day’s outcome depended on which hour you happened to stick your head in the room.

One day, a team of teachers is vividly re-enacting Washington’s Delaware crossing.

The next, they’re creating and becoming a human machine, joining hands and making beeping sounds to describe a pre-specified concept.

“This is about fundamental change, not incremental adjustment,” said Patrick Bolek, whose California-based Momentum Project Lab was picked to train DHS teachers in the new education-delivery approach. “They’re essentially ‘the kids’ for two days; they start looking at it through their students’ eyes.”

He called the training an “intense five-day experience” where traditional teaching forms are neatly folded up and flown out the window.

“It’s a concept-based, interdisciplinary approach,” he said. “It’s not about task completion.”

Under the system, teachers direct students to research, discuss and collaborate on projects, help identify a “unifying concept” that underlies their findings, then let them form a project to illustrate their understanding.

The system is outlined in Artful Learning’s key concepts of “Experience, Inquire, Create and Reflect.”

And he said the teachers have latched on to the training.

Meghan Luke, a two-year math teacher, said the training sessions were spawning all kinds of classroom ideas.

“Math can be very dull and very cold to some students,” she said. “When you think math, you don’t necessarily think arts. But you can make a lot of connections if you just sit down and think about it.”

She said core lessons will still be taught, it’s just a matter of finding physicality in the numbers that students can latch on to. The “function machine” teachers participated in during training is a good example, as teachers joined together to illustrate a concept.

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