As a substitute teacher, I sure have encountered a lot of different education programs. I’ve been at big and small schools, public and private, and have taught early education through high school. While a one-off day at a school is usually quickly forgotten, getting to see (and briefly be a part of) a really impressive program is a treat!
Recently, I spent the day teaching for the Kaleidoscope Program at Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. My background (and my heart) is in Art Education, so I jump at any chance to work in an arts based early education environment – especially an award winning community based school in my own hood!
Throughout my day, I was excited to see young kids (pre-K) who were really getting a well rounded arts education! The kids in my art classes had obviously been exposed to the “elements of design”, and were comfortable with some fairly advanced color theory. The day I spent with them, we were working with hot and cool colors. The students definitely had both the knowledge and vocabulary to talk about their own and others’ art work.
I was also able to observe the Kaleidoscope Plus program, Settlement’s new after-school program. Much like the day program, Kaleidoscope Plus has a major focus on the arts – visual arts, music, theater and dance. In my experience, there are some major benefits to presenting art, music, and movement in an integrated curriculum. Students gain skills in all areas – learning principles of art, developing fine motor skills, enhancing their listening skills and music making abilities, and moving their bodies in controlled and intentional ways.
This cross-disciplinary approach allows broader topics and themes to be explored. Over the course of this school year, Kaleidoscope Plus kids will be learning and creating around three major themes – myself, my community, my world. While I was visiting, students we’re focusing on “myself”. In the choice-based art classroom, this meant learning about our bodies and making a larger-than-life skeleton. (I do love a good 3-d project!)
On the more “dramatic” side of things, kids learned about storytelling, which culminated in mini-performances to rapt audiences of their peers. It’s obvious that these guys are confident in front of a group!
Here, kids participate in favorite game “mirror” – learning about the expressions they can make with their faces.
Overall, it was charming and fun to spend an afternoon with kids that were really learning – while not losing sight of the main focus: play. It was awesome to see kids really interacting, creating, and expressing themselves all afternoon. I found myself wishing I had been in a program like this when I was that little!
More information on Kaleidoscope Plus (including their mission statement, and enrollment pages) is available here. You can still enroll or start in January, after the holidays!