Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What Is Elementary Humanities Class?

This fall, for the first time ever in the AAPS, elementary students will be taking a Humanities class.  

These classes will focus on fine arts literacy—including physical education and information literacy technology-- with an interdisciplinary connection to the core curriculum, most specifically outcomes identified in science and social studies. Arts Integration is commonly recognized by the Kennedy Center and other educational referent groups, as an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form.  Students engage in a creative process, which connects an art form and another subject area that meets evolving objectives in both. For purposes of the proposed plan in Ann Arbor Public Schools, this would also include integrating understanding through participation in physical education and media class.

The arts platform will allow teachers to make learning more relevant by integrating science and social studies outcomes through special area class instruction. For instance, vocal music GLCE's (Grade Level Content Expectations) focuses on sound generation; so does the 2nd grade science unit on sound. The Humanities course will focus on the interdisciplinary connection between the two disciplines. Similarly, vocal and instrumental music speak to the importance of composition; extending the attributes of music composition to prose and poetry as a natural link.  Another example, Art education stresses observation and descriptors. Art journaling can be extended to include science writing and illustrations. Physical education can naturally address force, motion (3rd grade science) and some aspect of the human body skeletal/muscular systems (5th grade science) within contextual learning.  Media specialists will teach the media curriculum with a focused lens on reinforcing social studies and science outcomes through interdisciplinary literacy and technology integration.

The interdisciplinary outcomes connecting science and social studies in the humanities strand are often time assessed (by the Michigan Education Assessment Program--MEAP) in third, forth and fifth grades but the units are sometimes introduced as early as first grade. Repetition of concepts and academic vocabulary during the Humanities classes and throughout the elementary grades will increase relevancy and proficiency. Students will gain a deeper understanding of the science and/or social studies concept through interdisciplinary applications of the outcome (s) through Humanities classes.
Humanities instruction is a collaborative teaching opportunity. Classroom and special area teachers will come together to reflect the best in effective instructional practice: an understanding of multiple learning and teaching styles, the importance of hands on learning, conceptual learning grounded in real life demonstrations, repetition and extended learning, cooperative and inquiry based learning, and technology integration.
We are very excited about the new Ann Arbor Elementary Humanities Program.