19th Century Student Voices
While we had successfully collected photos, scans and copies of fascinating fragments from our history, we were getting further from some of the fundamental goals of our curricular development. The research, organizational strategies and resources that would be necessary to bring these disparate objects to a responsible life would leave us little time for studio work. We returned to our base camp, by reviewing our goals, timeframe and the thoughtful Common Core Standards (and our own Friendly interpretation of this inspired but bureaucratic document). There, at the very margin of our efforts, was a photocopy of the 1777 Students Gazette, and next to us, on the library cart, was a bound collection of the subsequent student newspaper, the Penn Charter Magazine. Our collective effort, our mutual trust, the Standards, the Students Gazette, the Penn Charter Magazine and serendipity all conspired in one of those fine, creative flashes. Clearly, the bound volumes of student publications offered the parameters and structure we needed to engage the history of the school in a meaningful, sensible and creative way. They could provide the historical point of reference and departure for our curriculum: Students would develop foundational skills in the arts while exploring observations, perceptions and ideas of 19th and early 20th century Penn Charter students.
We poured through the issues, copying articles, and illustrations of interest such as: The A. D. Gray Science Club, the Gymnastics team, the first Color Day, the 200-year anniversary of the charter, the portrait of William Penn, the field trip to the Baldwin Locomotive factory, the Gun Club, and the list goes on…. The magazine offered views with unique student perspectives on our history. The formality of the language, the tone of humor and the figures of speech would draw us (our students, and the subsequent audiences for their work) into Penn Charter’s historical moments.
This year in Foundation Arts, our students have the opportunity to select one or more articles that they find interesting, and also select a “project bundle,” including various ways of engaging with the content of their article and the foundational skills that are at the heart of our curriculum. Each bundle is actually an artform that includes a balance of visual and performing arts, design, physical and digital media. Students are creating silent films, newsreels, animation, sculptures and graphic novels, as well as other cultural artifacts that include relevant research on 19th and early 20th century dress, technologies, typography, music and other cultural aspects. They are integrating their research with the various dimensions and modalities of their chosen form. Some examples include:
Silent Film on Coeducation (Greer)
Newsreel on PC Golf (Marker)
Toon Boon Animation on PC Class Pin (Mackenzie)
Podcast on PC Track (Blake)
In the first trimester, we attempted a triangulation of time periods, including the 19th and mid-20th centuries, from the perspective of the 21st century. We organized panel discussions with former students and veteran faculty, including Steve Bonnie, John Burkhart, Jessica Bender, Beth Glascott, Randy Granger, Rick Mellor, Jack Rogers and more. They helped to bring the more recent history of the school to life for our students. Although the discussions were lively and informative, we needed to simplify our curriculum to allow more time for studio work, and thus are limiting ourselves to the late 19th and early 20th century articles in the second and third trimesters. Curricular development is always ongoing and evolving in Foundation Arts.
Interdisciplinary work knits us together as a learning community. Doug Uhlmann continues to be an integral member of our teaching team. In addition to collecting valuable and often obscure resources, Doug serves as a consultant for many individual student projects, and for the teaching team. Alice Bateman provided a Middle School perspective on research, which was helpful in planning for first trimester students transitioning into the Upper School. Allan Brown gives us access to the archive and shares his expertise on the history of the school. Imana Legette helped us address the negative racial, class and gender stereotypes that appear in a few early articles. Nora Landon, Ben Skinner and Jeffrey Soffer come to our classes to talk about The Mirror, and student journalism in general. Additionally, The Mirror has started publishing an early student article from the early Penn Charter Magazine in each issue.
At the end of the year, student projects and digital resources will be compiled and organized, chronologically, in an ebook that celebrates Penn Charter history, student creativity, student journalism and the Class of 2018. We look forward to sharing it with you!