9-hour day includes robotics, dance, cooking

 In a tough Oakland neighborhood, a middle school offers a 9-hour school day, reports Susan Frey on EdSource.  Elmhurst Community Prep students can choose enrichment classes in robotics, music, dance, painting, cooking, blogging and other activities. “They can make collages, dissect fetal pigs or create apps,” writes Frey.

“We’re not just cookies and basketballs,” said Principal Kilian Betlach,  “We have a real moral imperative to provide kids from low-income backgrounds with the services and opportunities that middle-class kids get. We don’t do just hard academics. We offer access and opportunities.”

Classes begin at 8 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. Federally funded AmeriCorps teaching fellows tutor students during the day and teach after-school classes. The regular academic teachers get an hour each afternoon, from 2 to 3 p.m., to work collaboratively and plan.

Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit, helps train the Americorps fellows and brings in “citizen teachers” from the community to teach their specialties. Local companies invite students for “apprenticeship” experiences.

At Pandora, students learned how to make an app. “It was a video game where you dodge fireballs,” Betlach recalled.

The school also works with nonprofits such as Waterside Workshops in Berkeley, where the students built a boat.

In 8th grade, student focus on one after-school activity.  Andres McDade, who tried robotics, skateboarding and film, chose music as an 8th grader. He plays the saxophone and percussion drum. “I like the joy of playing music,” he said.

Betlach and Citizen Schools “have cobbled together federal, state, local and private funding” to pay for the extended day, writes Frey.

In his days as a San Jose teacher, Betlach wrote an excellent blog, Teaching in the 408.

I visited Elmhurst a few months ago. (The school is participating in a blended learning pilot, which I’m writing about for Education Next‘s spring issue.) It’s a small, semi-autonomous school in Oakland Unified, so it has some freedom to innovate but all the usual challenges.

Top grades open door to school dance

Straight-A students were invited to a last-period dance, with free pizza and games, at a Maryland middle school, reports the Washington Post. B and C students can join in after school, when the pizza is gone. D and F students — about 35 percent of the student body — aren’t invited at all.

Some parents are complaining the “academic achievement celebration” is elitist.

“The students that don’t get to go end up feeling bad,” said parent Karen Hanlon, whose daughter has learning disabilities and was not invited to the party. Hanlon said the dance “separates the students into groups” in a school already divided between a highly competitive magnet program and the students who come from the immediate neighborhood.

“You’re creating a caste system that could easily result in bullying and victimization, which is what we’re trying to prevent, especially in middle school,” said Barbara Marinak, an associate professor of education at Mount St. Mary’s University. 

The A students are going to bully the D students? Really?

Dance by numbers

Gifted fifth graders in Virginia are learning about patterns by dancing, reports PBS.

Carrie Lewis and Kelly Steele’s fifth grade students slide and spin across the classroom floor, doing the hustle, the robot and the running man. . . .

“Dances are patterns,” Lewis said. “We had identified that our students had trouble with patterns and this was a way to get them involved in it.”

On the Pillsbury Dough Boy website, students analyze the cartoon mascot’s six dance moves, assign each step a number and chart the patterns in his dance.

They also watch America’s Best Dance Crew to chart the repetition of dance moves.

Students then choreographed their own dance routines, repeating at least five moves.

Using stopwatches to clock the average time of their routine, students were asked to then calculate how many times their pattern would repeat throughout the course of the song, and then turn the resulting data into a graph.

“If your song is 100 seconds, how many repetitions will you do of your dance?,” Steele said. “If you use the extended version of your dance, 200 seconds, how many repetitions do you need to do? They are using their graph to figure that information out.”

When each group performs their routine for classmates, they freeze midway through the dance. Students must predict the next move in the pattern.

Warhol’s fractions: Teaching through the arts

A Maryland middle school integrates arts with the standard curricula, reports Edutopia on Bates Middle School in Annapolis.

For example, in a science classroom you might see students choreographing a dance using locomotor and nonlocomotor movements to demonstrate their understanding of rotation versus revolution of the planets (PDF). In a math class, you might see students learning fractions by examining composition in Warhol’s Campbell’s soup paintings. (See more arts-integrated lesson plans from Bates.)

“Engagement can also be leveraged to boost academic growth and improve discipline,” Edutopia argues.

Teach music for music’s sake

Teach music because it’s a universal language and “the arts are our most potent means of human expression,” not because it might help kids learn fractions or raise test scores or develop teamwork, writes Nancy Flanagan, a music teacher.

Yesterday, the Learning First Alliance asked Can Arts Education Help Close the Achievement Gap? I appreciate the perspectives and data assembled by Anne O’Brien–who points out that students from high-poverty schools who study the arts are more likely to graduate HS, attend and finish college, and register to vote. But I believe the real question is:  What do the arts teach children that other subjects can’t?

Teachers defend music, art, dance and drama by arguing they help teach something considered more important, such as “enhanced brain development, spatial/visual/temporal processing, improving memory and attention, physical coordination, personal discipline and teamwork,” Flanagan writes.

But where did we get the idea that artistic expression is less useful or important than the sciences? How did music, art, dance and drama get pushed aside in our American school curriculum? I’m not surprised that studying or listening to music has beneficial effects on learning fractions or other academic skills, but those are side effects.

Kids should study music because it’s central to every human society on earth and has a vitally important role in every aspect of culture, from history to literature to media and communication studies. Music is part of what it means to be a human being.

Discuss.

Dance Your PhD: Titanium to pigeons

This year’s Dance Your PhD contest winners make science look sexy, writes Alan Boyle on Cosmic Log.

“Microstructure-Property Relationships in Ti2448 Components Produced by Selective Laser Melting”, by Joel Miller, a biomedical engineer at the University of Western Australia in Perth, won the physics category, the grand prize of $1,000 and a freed trip to TEDx Brussels.  The “love story” tells how stiff Titanium Man (played by Miller) and porous Bone Woman (Sara Fontaine) got together to create better, longer-lasting hip and knee replacements.

Science’s Joel Bohannon created the contest in 2008.

Three other videos won $500 prizes:

Cedric Kai Wei Tan,a biologist at the University of Oxford, won the biology category with his depiction of the fruit fly’s mating dance.

FoSheng Hsu,a structural biologist at Cornell University, took chemistry with “his solo interpretation of the time-consuming process for extracting proteins from E. coli bacteria and determining their structure through X-ray crystallography.”

Emma Ware, a behavioral biologist at Queen’s University in Canada, won the social science prize for a dance mimicking pigeons’ courtship dynamics.

Nearly all schools teach art, music

Music and visual art are nearly universally available in public schools, writes Robert Morrison, founder of Quadrant Arts Education Research, in School Band & Orchestra Magazine.

The data hasn’t changed much since 1994 for music and visual art. Dance and theater instruction has declined in secondary schools and is rare in elementary schools.

Ninety-one percent of elementary schools employ specialist music teachers, according to a federal report.

Via Common Core.