|About the Book|
This is a descriptive case study that examines the impact of an interdisciplinary, arts-centered curriculum implemented with rural, at-risk children in North Florida. In many areas of this country, the arts either face a threat of deletion from theMoreThis is a descriptive case study that examines the impact of an interdisciplinary, arts-centered curriculum implemented with rural, at-risk children in North Florida. In many areas of this country, the arts either face a threat of deletion from the school curriculum or have already been removed from school curricula altogether. The No Child Left Behind act has resulted in the arts being removed from a small, rural middle school in Florida with a large student population at-risk of educational failure. Coresponding with the reintroduction of an arts-centered curriculum into this school, the guiding research question is How will an arts-centered, integrated, critical approach to teaching and learning affect rural, middle school students?-The Arts-In-Education grant program, through Florida State Universitys Center of Educational Research and Development, was instituted to address the problem of poor literacy skills for a single grade at the middle school, using the arts as the vehicle for motivation and transmission. During the second year of the grant, I was given the task of developing a particular curriculum for the students involved in the study focused on the theme, Who Do You Think You Are? Grant co-workers participated in refining this curriculum that was developed and implemented with seventh-grade students. This curriculum had students experience art-centered activities during their language arts classes, in which they wrote critically and creatively in relation to arts activities, recorded final raps and poems recorded on CDs. The following year, a smaller scale implementation was conducted with a single group of sixth-grade students who also were at-risk of educational failure, which was the focus group for this study.-The participatory action research method was used in that the researcher was directly involved in teaching the curriculum and gathering the data that resulted from it. Impetus for the study came as a result of my own personal experience of living without the arts at a certain point during my earlier school matriculations, and being a peripheralized, at-risk student myself. So a personal vignette can be found in the study of my own personal experience, as stimulus and foundation for the theoretical premise of the study. The theoretical focus lies in African American liberation theory and philosophical pragmatism. Further, from a phenomenological perspective, I wanted to know how students and other stakeholders perceived the curriculum and its effects and what that meant to them. The desire was to find out what the students had gained from their art experience, qualitatively/affectively, and whether they felt art was a positive experience in and of itself and whether they felt it served as a positive tool for learning in language arts.-The data was constructed from direct observation, student artifacts, and interviews. Raw data were frequently used in the report to illustrate and substantiate the presentation (Bilken & Bogdon, 2003, p. 5). Several themes resulted from the collected data. In answer to the primary question, the curriculum affected the students in several ways. First, in spite of some negative claims, most of the students understood the importance of art as a mode of personal self-expression and learning about new things. Second, they engaged in exploration about having respect for themselves through both the process and the curriculum content. But, in spite of engaging the arts as the means toward verbal and written literacy, the results of this study suggest the children made little progress toward written literacy. The arts-based curriculum did not, overall, motivate them to want to read and write. I suspect this reticence is as much a matter of poor skills development. Other themes were emergent. These themes dealt with discipline issues, adult betrayal, bureaucratic trouble, changing dynamics during recording of the CDs, and finally, a hopeful theme, the positive personal transformations in a few students during their involvement in the study. Because of the difficult conditions under which the study was conducted, conclusions about the potential success of the arts integrated curriculums potential to positively affect children are difficult to draw. Some students understood that their personal paradigms had been expanded through this program, but others didnt acknowledge any effect. Further studies of this sort should be conducted and are planned by the researcher.