Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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Making Civics Real Workshop 5: Patriotism & Foreign Policy  
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Workshop 5

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Student Perspectives: Combining civics and the arts

Alex: To take a course like this was very beneficial to me because I can relate it to my art. I’m a very visual person. I like to do things from a visual and artistic perspective and I think I find much more passion in learning this way than any other conventional way of learning.

David: Before I was an artist, I was a U.S. citizen. As an artist, we represent the United States. Whenever people think of Americans in other countries, what’s the first place they see them? On television or on the stage! So artists are the interpretation of Americans and it’s important for me to know what an American is.

Eugenia: I think artists learn differently. We learn through expression and free expression, and not going strictly from a book allows us to be more artistic, to bring more of ourselves into each assignment. We still have to research. We still have to go on the Internet. We still have to read encyclopedias and go through old books and other resources, so it is still challenging. When I do my presentation, it’s not as if I just do anything that’s called artistic. I still want to perfect it as if she is grading me directly on my art, as well as on the information that I incorporate with it. I think teachers should find what each child’s niche is and work on that, versus just pounding at a weakness in a child and not showing results. If you find out what that child is interested in and learn how to incorporate it within the lesson, I think you have much, much better results.

Leo: [Ms. Chandler] integrates the arts into the curriculum and that kind of spices stuff up a bit, especially when she incorporated artists into government. I thought that government and arts were separate, but she somehow made them come together and that really, really got me excited. I think the best way to get an artist's attention is to incorporate what they love doing into the curriculum. That keeps them enthralled. It keeps them awake. It gives them an opportunity to ask questions and dive deeper into what we're talking about. I like the way she incorporates people who are in the department. For example, Paul Robeson was a great artist. I'm a theater major and he relates to me so much. I didn't know the United States turned its back on him because they looked upon him as a communist. That affected me because he is an artist--that's all I saw him as. I didn't know that he was a cultural ambassador. I didn't know he was known globally for the things that he did overseas. She kind of incorporates art into government, and that makes it a lot easier for me to understand. Then we started discussing how [the arts] affected the government through different types of protests, through art, and education through art. I got really interested when we started talking about books that were banned by the government. That had a literary aspect into it--I love to read because I'm a theater artist--hearing that the government wanted to ban certain books because of the topics that they bring up, like Malcolm X. It offended me. Banning books--that's just like banning an education.

Myra: To come to this school you have to have a passion for art. Whether you want to or not, you have to spend the extra two or three hours here every day that other high school students don’t. So for her to tie government into what we are passionate about, it just clears up any problems of being interested in the subject or having to suffer through it. While you are learning about government, you are reinforcing what you are learning in the art classes, so it’s a completely rounded education. [Ms. Chandler] will give a presentation on [a] topic and find a way to incorporate your art. She will leave it open so it is sort of up to us to make that connection, which I really enjoy because that is where the real challenge is. She often says, “It doesn’t have to be your particular art, it can be any art.” So if an actor wants to paint a picture, he can do it for her class and get credit for it. It gives the students a chance to explore different artistic aspects of a subject. By using our art, it makes it easier if a student wants to cheat their way out of learning. But then you put so much energy into finding that right way of getting out of learning that you really do just as much work. One of the projects that really challenged me and also became fun was a critique where we could choose a video and a book or two videos or two books that had to do with one topic and do a critique comparing the subject itself and whether they represented it clearly. I chose to do the Watergate scandal, so I watched “All the President’s Men” and then the spoof on “All the President’s Men.” It was really an enjoyable experience. I feel like I learned so much more about that period in history. It became a personal connection, something that now when people talk about it I will say, “Oh yes. I did a report on that back in high school.”


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