When Chesapeake Academy students return to classes in the fall, they will find that the spaces used for music and art instruction have been remodeled. They will soon learn that the instruction they receive in these subjects has been remodeled as well.
Reshaping the way the arts are taught and integrated with instruction in other subjects is one of two major initiatives being undertaken during the coming academic year, says Assistant Head of School Julie Keesee.
“We have always offered art, music, drama and media arts, but we have a new, integrated curriculum built around the arts. We determined how space currently being used for instruction in the arts could be reconfigured to enhance the program. We have revised our class schedule to create longer, ninety-minute periods during the week so students can move back and forth from one art form to another. We are integrating multi-media technology more deliberately into arts instruction,” Keesee says.
Keesee anticipates that, as part of the emphasis on integrated learning, the regular curriculum will provide content for the creation of projects involving the arts. “For example, students who participate in our annual trips to Washington DC or Florida will be asked to develop an imaginative presentation about their experience. That may involve any form of creative arts,” she says.
The second initiative involves Project Based Learning. Although Chesapeake Academy teachers have been adept at using projects in instruction, Keesee says this summer, teachers have been developing a plan to make Project Based Learning a key element in the school’s instructional approach.
“We have been consulting with experts in the fields of science and social sciences to learn how we might take advantage of this form of instruction in which students ask big questions, plan research, and learn principles by solving real-world problems,” Keesee says. In August, teachers will be attending a professional development session conducted by faculty from the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William & Mary School of Education to learn how Project Based Learning can be adapted to meet the needs of highly achieving students.
Chesapeake Academy subscribes to Defined STEM, an Internet-based service that provides resources that allow students to apply concepts in science, technology, engineering and math to real-world scenarios. “These resources show students how academic subjects are used in everyday life and at the same time introduce them to careers in which they may develop an interest,” Keesee says.
Head of School Deborah Cook says the changes to the Arts instruction and the focus on Project Based Learning are part of a long-range plan to ensure students are prepared for twenty-first century challenges. “We continually evaluate our program and determine which areas are the focus for new initiatives. That reflection enables Chesapeake Academy to maintain its status as leader in education,” she says.
Pictured: Fifth grade students work on an integrated science and arts project in which they design instruments and study sound waves. From left: Braiden Kent (White Stone), Sadie Hassman (Kilmarnock), Faith Hattersley (Wicomico Church), Olivia Smith (Farnham), Orie Bullard (Mount Holly)