Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Philadelphia-as-Classroom and Emergent Curriculum

By Sonia Duprez

As part of Penn Charter’s support of faculty professional development and continuous efforts to improve our teaching and learning, the Lower School faculty is able to engage, to various degrees, with the emergent curriculum. When students express a particular interest, or when members of our community can share with our students a special opportunity, we have the freedom and space to create meaningful, unique learning experiences. In the fourth grade, we have been looking at ways to brighten and deepen our social studies units. This year, our team worked to integrate social studies with the varied resources that our city offers. Philadelphia-as-classroom provides rich materials for authentic studies of environmentalism, geography, Quakerism, economics and urban development.

PC parent Craig Grossman is a general partner at Arts and Crafts Holdings, an investment and development company that currently focuses on the Spring Arts District, an area between 9th and 11th streets and north of Ridge Avenue to Spring Garden Street. The Spring Arts District project “will promote and grow a community of artists and craftspeople in a vibrant urban district comprised of multiple mixed use properties.”

Grossman invited fourth and second grade to his office, a renovated, art-filled warehouse, to learn more about the changing landscape of this neighborhood. We all are familiar with the well-established Mural Arts Program, but there are other lesser-known artists still active in unexpected and beautiful street art. One of these artists, Amberella, is a vibrant presence in the revitalization of the Spring Arts neighborhood. Our students traveled to met Amberella and heard the inspiring story that led to her creation of now-familiar “power hearts,” which are posted on walls, doors and signs around the city using wheat paste.

In the classroom, students brainstormed short inspirational quotes and were excited to find that they had been pre-printed on power hearts waiting especially for us! After touring the neighborhood, including development projects and other murals, students affixed their own power hearts to wood using wheat paste, with Amberella’s guidance.

Students collaborated to make two large power hearts now on display in our classroom. Our students, who are gearing up for an economics unit, learned about the realities of their changing city while engaging in a fun and inspirational hands-on project.

The strategic goal to advance our educational program to provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in a complex and changing world is at the heart of so much curricular momentum at present. Using the city intentionally not just to enhance, but to energize our program has been an exciting part of our work this year. We have been in partnership with the Center for Public Purpose to bridge service projects with environmental stewardship, explorations of Philly’s great hiking trails, and visits from local organizations. We are excited to see where these new projects lead us. This year has confirmed for our teaching team that by giving space for emergent curriculum, we were able to see areas in our program where we should turn to Philadelphia as a co-teacher and collaborator.

Enjoy a short video about the project, below. You may need to click to enable Adobe Flash Player on your browser.


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