By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
CSU San Marcos
The college students have the enthusiasm of 4-year-olds as they take turns reading “Princess Penelope and the Dragon” aloud on stage. Like all good fairy tales, it begins with “Once upon a time.”
When “Princess Penelope” is uttered by the narrator, the script calls for a group of college students to chant “Ooooh.” Every time “Lords and Ladies” is read aloud, another group chimes in with “Chatter, chatter, chatter.” The phrase “Mighty King” elicits a dramatic “Oh me, oh my.” It’s all part of “readers theater,” designed to make reading jolly good fun.
But reading with expressive voices and gestures is just one strategy these future teachers are learning about incorporating the arts into classroom learning from their teacher, Dr. Merryl Goldberg, a visual and performing arts professor at California State University, San Marcos.
“Wouldn’t this be an engaging method for kids who don’t like to read?” asks Goldberg, a California Faculty Association member. “Won’t this activity help them remember the material better?”
Other strategies she will demonstrate throughout the semester to seniors in her “Learning through the Arts” class are how to use sounds — such as hand claps and stomps — to help youngsters learn math; having children “act out” science standards, such as the life cycle of a plant or water evaporation; and using works of art to improve writing skills.
Integrating the arts makes students want to learn, especially students considered to be at risk, says Goldberg. “Not only do kids learn, but studies show they even do better on tests.”
In 2003 Goldberg founded Center ARTES, an organization dedicated to K-12 arts education. The organization fosters partnerships between the university, local school districts and professional organizations in order to bring the arts to public schools, which have drastically cut or eliminated programs. Through Center ARTES, Goldberg works with superintendents, principals and teachers in the San Diego area creating innovative curriculum to liven up classroom learning. Working artists within the program train teachers via workshops and classroom visits where they model lessons. Their expertise ranges from puppetry to sculpture to music. (For details, visit ww.csusm.edu/centerartes.)
Goldberg, a professional saxophonist and recording artist, toured internationally for 13 years and has recorded over a dozen CDs with major labels. In 2008, she was honored as College Educator of the Year for Southern California by the California Music Educators Association. She has authored books and articles about integrated arts education. Her federal grant project, DREAM, is a four-year, million-dollar grant researching the impact of the arts on the language arts development of students attending low-income schools.
“One of the most interesting things to me about music and art is that they embody all the important things people need in life to be successful human beings,” muses Goldberg. “That includes practicing, persistence, creativity and determination. Schools have gotten so caught up in testing that they’ve forgotten how to encourage kids to follow their passion. But I haven’t given up hope.”
Her students look forward to using the strategies that they have learned from Goldberg and implementing them in their own classrooms some day.
“She changed my mind about how I will teach,” says Sergio Topete. “I used to think I would be standing at the board lecturing. But now I know how I can make my teaching much more exciting.”
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