Academy Could Give Students A Way To Enhance Their Instruction In Arts
Posted: October 6, 2012
Students gather around for the women’s camerata singing class at Harrisonburg High School on Thursday. The city school system is looking at a proposal for a Fine Arts Academy. (Photos by Stephen Mitchell / DN-R)
LEFT TO RIGHT: Harrisonburg High School students Callie Glover, Margaret Morrell, Andrea Wood, Daelynn McCleve and Cassidy Holsinger sing in the women’s camerata class at Harrisonburg High School on Thursday.
Harrisonburg High School students Jasmyn Arrington (left) and Ariel Vogel sing in the women’s camerata choir class at Harrisonburg High School on Thursday. City schools are looking at a new program to enhance fine arts learning.
But if students pursue offerings through a new Fine Arts Academy being proposed for the division, they could potentially double that amount of time, according to J.R. Snow, fine arts coordinator for city schools.
“I think that’s a great goal, and if we can reach towards that and achieve that, we’re going to see more young students become better artistic thinkers,” Snow said. “We do a wonderful job of getting kids to focus on one element of the arts, [but] we really want to create a program where students can walk away with a much better realization and commitment to fine arts as a whole.”
Snow presented details of the proposed academy this week to the Harrisonburg City School Board. The tentative plan is to begin the arts curriculum expansion in fall 2013.
The academy is similar to the science, technology, engineering and math academies started at Skyline and Thomas Harrison middle schools and Harrisonburg High School this year, in that it creates a tailored path for students interested in a specific subject area.
Specifics about the cost of the academy are forthcoming, according to Snow.
Members of the division’s staff have been meeting since June to create a concept for the academies, which will work differently for each school level.
At the elementary level, Snow said, students would be offered classes and a program outside regular class time. The tentative plan is for the division to partner with the Explore More Discovery Museum in downtown Harrisonburg to create a community fine arts center.
“We felt it would be best to not diminish any other programs but instead look at a way to enhance [arts education],” Snow said.
At the middle school level, the fine arts curriculum would be modeled after the STEM academy: Students would have a special block of time devoted to fine arts curriculum, which Snow said would introduce concepts of collaborative and community learning.
“We believe that this kind of enhancement … [is] going to prepare our students to find out who they are,” he said.
It’s at the high school level that students would receive the most in-depth instruction. Students would be asked to choose one or two “strands” to follow from such areas as creative writing, drama, visual art, dance and either instrumental or choral music.
Students would take a mix of electives and academy-specific classes that Snow said would be interdisciplinary and experimental. The academy classes would have a different focus each year, either on history, concepts or culture.
The high school academy would culminate in a senior year collaborative project that would integrate various skills and topics learned.
In addition to the Explore More Discovery Museum, the division plans to partner with the Arts Council of the Valley and James Madison University’s Visual and Performing Arts College.
“The more community partnerships we make, the more chances we’re going to [have to] be successful, not just on a small scale, but on a larger scale in our community,” Snow said.
Snow said the next steps are to continue plans for the program, create a community advisory board and find more community partners.
He also will visit several academies and give an update to the board in December or January.
Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or email@example.com