Laney said, “Grandmother, since you were a teacher you know lots of things.” She was working on a project for the last week of school and had decided I could help her.
Then Laney began talking about a promethean board. I confessed I did not have a clue about using one of those. Somewhat amazed that her retired-teacher grandmother did not know about a promethean board Laney asked, “What did you use when you were a teacher.”
Of course she knew what a chalkboard is. However, when I talked about filmstrips and filmstrip projectors, etc. she had no idea what I was talking about.
Then, Laney asked me if I could be a teacher again if I wanted to be. I told her I could but I probably would need to take a few college courses to renew my teaching certificate and learn about things like promethean boards.
She quite innocently said, “You’re too old to go to college Grandmother.” I did not argue.
Until last fall I knew nothing about the STEM school program either. But I did know something good and different would be happening in the schools selected to be academies when school began.
When I first walked into Laney’s school, Hasty Elementary, after school began last fall I was astounded.
Hasty had been selected to be a part of the STEM program and had been transformed into a Fine Arts Academy.
Immediately upon entering the door, you realize it is not your traditional school. Yet it is. The emphasis is still on academics. Reading, writing and arithmetic are not being neglected.
It is how they are taught that is different. The lessons are integrated with art. For example, in Laney’s second grade class, her teacher, Donna Adair, used musical instruments in a lesson on fractions. When learning about constellations, the students painted them.
Sixth-grade math teacher Ali Lamb uses scale drawings and cartoons to teach proportions. She teaches geometry with visual arts including some of Andy Warhol’s paintings.
Many of us have problems knowing whether to multiply, subtract, add, etc., first. In other words we do not know what Ms. Lamb calls the Order of Operations. Her classes create a PEMDAS song.
PEMDAS, an acronym, means in solving an equation the order to follow is parentheses, exponents, multiply, divide, add and finally subtract. Singing the PEMDAS song helps the students remember the Order of Operations.
It is like many of us learned our ABCs by singing the Alphabet Song.
Izell McGruder is the principal of Hasty Elementary. Mr. McGruder explains that arts being integrated into all areas of the curriculum provides for students to be more active learners.
He likes the opportunities students have for displaying their knowledge through poetry, songs, dance, visual arts and theater.
Entering Hasty is somewhat like entering the elegant lobby of a theater. There is even a booth in the middle of the hall with a painting of Mr. McGruder inside selling tickets. The theater theme is carried out all over the building.
As we have often heard, leadership begins at the top. Mr. McGruder, is a good example of that.
He has the knowledge and personal and professional qualities found in successful elementary school principals. That includes being kind and friendly with children and adults.
A few days ago I attended Awards Day at Hasty. In keeping with the theater theme, Ms. Adair rolled out the “red carpet” in her classroom. She had feather boas and big sunglasses, too.
When each child’s name was called, he or she put on big glasses and some wore a feather boas. Then they walked the red carpet to get their awards just like the stars do on Oscar night.
A few days later, I talked with Ball Ground Elementary School teacher Sherry Tucker. Ball Ground has the STEM program, too. Their focus is science, technology, engineering and math.
Ms. Tucker said that she has never been more excited in her career. It is like she and her students have been rejuvenated.
The students have the opportunity to be more creative. They make a plan and carry it out. If it does not work, they start over.
As the school year has ended I am delighted that Laney was a part of the charter year of Hasty Elementary being a fine arts academy. Without a doubt, it has been highly successful.
In fact, I think the faculty and staff of Hasty Elementary are Oscar-worthy. So is the Board of Education for providing this new, innovative program for our children.
Marguerite Cline is the former mayor of Waleska.