Thursday, June 25, 2009

Picturing America to Picture Success in Muscogee Co. School District

Muscogee County School District & the Picturing America Best Practices Institute

When students leave school for the summer vacation, teachers and administrators can be found still hard at work, refreshing their skills and learning new approaches to support student success. On June 3 and 4, 2009, teachers from Muscogee County School District gathered for a two day workshop inspired by Picturing America, a program of the National Endowment of the Humanities. The group included K-12 teachers in music, visual arts, Spanish, social studies, language arts and media specialists and was organized by Robbie Holt (Director of Arts & Humanities) and her team.

Muscogee County School District, an award recipient from the Picturing America Program, had portfolios of posters on great American art. Many teachers have been using these poster sets as tools to introduce students to the best of American arts and humanities. An example is pictured here: Thomas Hart Benton's The Sources of Country Music. The art work was a catalyst for a robust discussion among the teachers that led in directions as diverse as American History, history of American song, origin of musical instruments, transportation, social & economic influences, etc.

The skills teacher's used for this type of responsive and creative analysis were honed by the presentations, demonstrations and activities offered to the group by the three guest instructors. Object-based learning, literature and music as a focus for a sense of place, art and artifacts for increasing observational skills are some examples of the work the group undertook over the two day period.

The major assignment for all the educators attending the Best Practices Institute was to assemble a piece of art or personal artifact that told a family story. The collection of objects created an instant cultural museum and allowed the whole group to become deeply engaged in the applied lessons from two days of intensive work.

The W.C. Bradley Co. in Columbus, Georgia served as the host and location for the Institute. The building that began as a cotton warehouse in 1885 is now a whole block on the National Historic Register and in the second century of adaptive re-use. Susan Wiggins, Vice President for Stakeholder Relations, gave the group of teachers an overview of the history of the company and the buildings. She pointed out the historic photographs on the walls and artifacts (including Mr. Bradley's desk) throughout the building. The highlight of her presentation was the background and guided tour of the W.C. Bradley Co. Centennial Art Collection. After an extensive national search, 21 artists were commissioned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the company by using their art to "document a company, a place, a people, and a place in time." With the historic structures, artifacts and art collection, the W.C. Bradley Co. was the living symbol of the work teachers were undertaking in the Picturing America Best Practices Institute.

About the Instructors

David Johnson is Professor Emeritus from Columbus State University in creative writing and American literature. He is know as a poet and storyteller . His work has been published nationally in juried periodicals and journals.

Kristen S. Hansen is Associate Professor of Music in the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University. Dr. Hansen holds the DMA and the MM in Horn Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. She previously received the degree of Bachelor of Music summa cum lunde from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. She plays second horn in the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. At Columbus State, Dr. Hansen is an active teacher and site director with study abroad programs in Paris and Oxford. She is currently engaged in writing a music theory text for undergrduate music majors.

Anne R. King is a veteran museum educator, who most recently has focused on developing interpretive guides and web-based interactive learning sites for museum collections and exhibitions. Her interest in American art and culture and in interdisciplinary learning grew through years of programming and interpretive work at the Columbus Museum.

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