Mary Lou Schweickert, Band Teacher
Why do you think the teachers at Hand Middle School feel so committed to teaching in a connected manner?
In 1997 we applied for and received a planning grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission to become an Arts in Basic Curriculum (ABC) model site. We put a great deal of this money toward our first big arts-integrated event – a Renaissance Faire. The excitement generated that day was the catalyst for all of the connections and collaborations that now happen so naturally at Hand. We’ve applied for and received an ABC grant each year since then. The amount of money supplied by these grants isn’t large, but the grant provides a focus for us, and makes us closely examine our practices each year.
Also, our student body is extremely diverse; students come from a very wide range of economic backgrounds, parental education levels, travel experiences, and so on. The teachers here who integrate the arts have found integration to be the most effective way to pull more children in emotionally and physically to the subject matter. Once teachers have experienced a successful collaboration or art integration, they become hooked!
What kinds of special events do you put on that blend arts and non-arts subjects?
Each year, the seventh-grade students become immersed in a study of the 1940s and World War II. The culminating event is a USO style show that includes swing music by our jazz band, swing dancing led by a guest artist, radio skits and commercials, military music, and visits by WW II veterans.
We try to make our themes broad and encompassing. A recent festival was focused on the theme “Revolutions.” The band students and seventh-grade history students explored the Industrial Revolution and the origins of the brass band. The orchestra and dance students explored the Technological Revolution by composing music with computer-manipulated sounds and choreographing the compositions with Lifeforms software. Art and science students used a totally different meaning of revolution and created Rube Goldberg type inventions with revolving parts, while language arts students explored revolutionary writers throughout history.
How does being a performer enhance your teaching?
Being a performer allows me to see what it is like on the other end of the baton. I can appreciate conductors who have a well-organized plan for a rehearsal, and I feel frustrated when a conductor spends too much time talking. I also believe being a performer keeps my standards higher. Finally, my students are fascinated that there are opportunities to get paid for playing your instrument! Some of my former students have even gone on to performance careers and we have performed together in the South Carolina Philharmonic.
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Mary Ann Odom,
7th-Grade Social Studies Teacher
In the program, we see you teach a lesson using letters written by a local woman during World War II. After students analyzed the letters, what else did you do?
We tried to summarize what we had learned from the letters about life at home in Columbia during World War II. We decided we had learned about clothing/fashions, home life, recreation, places in the city, and rationing. On large sheets of colored paper labeled as above, students listed specific information from their letter pertaining to each topic. Then they brought or created maps, posters, documents, etc. The displays became very elaborate.
Next the students brought in family photographs from World War II that we carefully added to the appropriate bulletin board. We also scanned these to make large pictures for decoration of a wall in the gym and scanned them into PowerPoint for showing on a large screen as the background for our USO Day. The photographs open up new avenues of interest and learning since students tried to find out more information to share. After picking out information from the letters, students found it easy to transfer this ability to gleaning information from other primary sources, like photographs.
What are other ways you bring the arts into your social studies classroom?
This year in teaching South Carolina history I have lined up a group of local high school students to bring in old instruments and share their ideas about what an evening's musical recreation would have been like in Colonial times. I use early American paintings as primary sources to glean more information about the times. I see art as an integral part of culture that is tied into everyday activities, so I am looking for ways to underline differences between earlier times between today.
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