Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pleasant View Magnet School for the Visual and Performing Arts

In these days of No Child Left Behind and the tyranny of standardized testing, many schools have responded by cutting everything from recess to their arts program. It seems irrelevant that research has validated how important both of those things are to learning and achievement (even on standardized tests). They don't help the students earn tax or other dollars for the schools, so they land on the chopping board.

(And yes, I realize I'm oversimplifying and that the educational choices are actually far more complex than that.)

So I find what Lansing School Districts are doing with the magnet schools to be refreshing and a cause for rejoicing. In particular, I'm excited about Pleasant View Magnet School for the Visual and Performing Arts. Last night I listened to the principal describe the educational program they have in place. How's this for exciting?

The morning is primarily a two-hour literacy block working on reading, writing, and spelling. The rest of the day also includes math, science, and social studies. Then in the afternoon, all children have the following classes:

  • Music twice a week
  • Dance once a week
  • Art once a week
  • Drama once a week
  • Gym once a week
  • Library once a week
  • Computer once a week (or more for older kids)
In third grade, students learn to play the recorder. In fifth and sixth grade, students can start to take band or orchestra (and all instruments are provided by the school). Starting in fourth grade, students enter the "arts academy." This means that they pick one of the arts to specialize in. They'll get two additional classes per week with more intensive instruction in that area.

They also have a resource teacher that works with the art and classroom teachers to help integrate art into the entire curriculum. The examples given were that multiplication facts are set to rap and math concepts to other songs; when fourth graders study Michigan history, they design and then sculpt lighthouses out of clay.

The children also have numerous opportunities to perform throughout the year, including a holiday program in December and an all-school spring dance production.

This year they have more than 580 students enrolled in the K-8 program. Think of that--580 students getting daily education in the arts. I get goosebumps just thinking about the positive force something like that can have on our community. That's a world I want to live in.

No comments: