Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Charleston High promotes authentic learning

On February 2 I sat in on a  workshop held at Charleston High, which featured breakdancing, poetry readings, singing, and West African drumming. This was part of a weeklong workshop known as “Art of Agency.” Charlestown High School headmaster William Thomas noted as he watched students perform their spoken word poetry, “This is exactly the kind of thing that makes a school great.”

The workshops developed after surveying students, which determined that classes needed to be more energetic and relevant to issues concerning them. The weeklong workshops replace regular academic classes and allow students to attend various art sessions.  Students in Diploma Plus begin and end each day by gathering in “talking circles,” which is a time of reflection for the students. “So what did you learn?” asks Director of Diploma Plus Sunny Pai. “How did today make you a stronger student?

“Art for Agency” is one of three workshops held at the school.  The first workshop, ”A Third Eye Opening: A Conference on Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation,” took place in October with topics of discussion including ethnic identity, gender, bullying, and homophobia.  The workshops are led by Sung-Joon Pai, Director of Diploma Plus SLC, with funding from Nellie Mae Education Foundation. Diploma Plus is a program that started at Charlestown High in 2009, which re-engages students who are 16 yrs. or older and 2 years over grade level with few credits.

I asked junior Brianna Boyd for her thoughts on the weeklong workshop and she said, “It’s been an incredible week. We don’t get to do this often and it’s nice to see art in many forms. Senior Paul Homes chimed in, “This is my third year in DP, and it’s great to see an organized event at the school. I’m into art and it inspires me to see something like this. It’s also cool to see your peers share a piece of themselves with you.” I asked Mr. Pai for his thoughts on the workshop and he responded, “This is what schools should be like all the time--engaging students and communities, while also inspiring them. This is authentic learning that we need!”

A third workshop will be held in April. If you would like to learn more about Diploma Plus check out: