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December 2014 Newsletter

Meeting Common Core Standards with the Arts

"Common Core is about teaching students to notice deeply, ask good questions, and make connections. The skills young people build in engaging with art will serve them for the rest of their lives."  -  Russell Granet, executive director of Lincoln Center Education


LEARNING REVELATIONS: Alvin Ailey’s signature work, “Revelations,” tells a story of slavery and freedom through dance pieces set to spirituals and blues. Students watch video and live versions of the dance. They read related texts, and research and write assignments connected to the themes, and compose their own poems. And, of course, they dance.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs “Revelations” (top). Photo by Bill Hebert Students participate in a “Revelations” residency (bottom). Photo by Drew A. Kelley

Because of limited classroom time and budgets, the pressure to get New York public school students to meet new Common Core learning standards is squeezing out the arts.

Education experts say that’s the wrong approach. “The arts are ideally suited to teach skills that are crucial in math, English, science, and other academic coursework,” says Shawn Morehead, a Trust program officer.

A $150,000 grant to Lincoln Center Education will help 50 arts groups modify their programs to address the Common Core. In addition, $489,000 in grants to Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, Alice Austen House, American Museum of Natural History, Brooklyn Academy of Music, City Lore, Friends of Materials for the Arts, and Noble Maritime Collection will support in-school arts programs that teach kids to think critically and creatively.

In a typical exercise used by Lincoln Center Education, students look at a painting and discuss what they see. Then they read a related nonfiction account to provide historical context; they also create their own art. All this fosters curiosity as students connect art with their other studies.

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PLUNGING INTO HISTORY: At the Noble Maritime Collection on Staten Island, third through seventh graders will learn about Kate Walker, who operated the Robbins Reef Lighthouse (right) in New York Harbor from 1894 until 1919. While reading primary texts as well as fiction about life during that period, the students learn traditional printmaking and act out scenes from maritime history (left).

  ONE NEW YORKER ’S TRASH: From a warehouse in Long Island City, Materials for the Arts collects and distributes tons of donated goods, ranging from buttons to wallpaper. With our grant, teaching artists will visit classrooms where kids use familiar tools and materials in creative new ways. The artists tailor projects to teach geometry, addition, and subtraction.  In this photo, a teacher helps kids learn about computation with a math game made of a jeweler’s tray and bottle caps.

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