The Transylvania Times -

By Jeanne DeJong
Everyday Education 

Transylvania Schools Teach 'Super Skills'


Last updated 2/3/2014 at 10:04am

They are called the “Super Skills” for the 21st Century, the 4 Cs:

• Critical thinking and problem solving;

• Communication;

• Collaboration; and

• Creativity and innovation

These are important skills for our students to develop in order to be effective citizens, workers, and leaders in our world.

Here is a brief summary of each of these Super Skills as defined by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills:

Critical Thinking and problem solving: Looking at problems in a new way, linking learning across subjects and disciplines.

Communication: Sharing of thoughts, questions, ideas, and solutions.

Collaboration: Working together to reach a goal — putting talent, expertise, and smarts to work.

Creativity and innovation: Trying new approaches to get things done equals innovation and invention.

In the Transylvania County Schools these “Super Skills” are incorporated into the everyday instruction in the academic classroom: reading, math, science, social studies, from kindergarten to 12th grade.

At the elementary schools each student also has the opportunity to learn and apply these skills in classes that are called “specials.”

Specials, in the Transylvania County schools, include music, art, PE, and media (library and computer lab). Each of these classes enhances the development of our students both academically and as creative citizens in our world.

The concepts of the Super Skills are found integrated into the Preamble of the North Carolina Essential Standards for the Arts (Music and Visual Arts):

The arts have both intrinsic and instrumental value; …they can be used to achieve a multitude of purposes (e.g., to communicate issues and ideas, to persuade, to entertain, to beautify). As students imagine, create, and reflect, they are developing both the verbal and nonverbal abilities necessary for school success.

At the same time, the intellectual demands of the arts help students develop problem-solving, critical, and creative thinking abilities.

Numerous studies point toward a consistent and positive correlation be-tween a comprehensive education in the arts and student achievement in other subjects and on standardized tests. A comprehensive, articulated arts education program engages and helps students develop the self-esteem, self-discipline, cooperative skills, and self-motivation necessary for success in life.

Music classes in the Transylvania County elementary schools include singing, playing instruments, learning to read musical notes and play rhythms, and researching musicians. Many early reading skills are nurtured in music class, as students play the rhythm of the words in a song, play a steady beat while reciting a poem, or add instruments and creative sound effects to stories.

Our music teachers collaborate with classroom teachers, integrating multicultural music with those cultures studied in the regular classrooms, encouraging students to make connections across the curriculum.

Fourth graders learn songs from North Carolina, as well as famous musicians from our state. They also learn how to play the Appalachian Dulcimer.

Fifth grade students sing songs from the Civil War era, including several about the Underground Railroad.

Students have the opportunity in music class to communicate through singing and playing music, as well as through writing music, either using musical symbols, or creating original song lyrics. Critical listening skills lead to critical thinking skills, as students are challenged to listen attentively to aural examples of music, and then describe what they hear, using advanced vocabulary such as “tempo,” “dynamics,” “ensemble,” “articulation,” and other such terms. Students collaborate with each other as they play instruments or sing, combining parts to create an entire musical composition.

Drawing, painting, weaving, molding with clay, are a few of the opportunities students have to develop creativity in art classes in our elementary schools. Again, the art teachers work closely with the classroom teachers to help students make connections between the academic classroom and art.

For example: students are introduced to colors through the book “Harold and the Purple Crayon;” through weaving students learn to recognize that colors have meanings in various cultures; students create collages of the Blue Ridge Mountains; after a study of van Gogh for perspective and shapes, students experiment and problem solve to create their own van Gogh bedroom scene. Collaboration and cooperation are encouraged in many projects, including mask making and mural painting in the schools.

Concerning physical health, “The More They Burn, The Better They Learn.” That is from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Children who are physically active earn better grades. Physical education in our schools plays an important part in developing the whole person that our children are becoming.

In addition to learning about being physically fit, students learn to play games and various sports, building their skills in all of the 4 Cs. Students also create “commercials” to encourage the student body to participate in school-wide fitness initiatives like the Wednesday walk to school days. During game playing, students are guided toward skills of good sportsmanship, which include collaboration and cooperation.

The media specials in the Transylvania County elementary schools include library and computer skills. Students learn about various sources of information ranging from books and encyclopedias to the Internet. They learn about technology as a tool and how to use that tool. The research process is developed using print as well as digital resources. And, importantly, safety issues surrounding the use of Internet materials are explored.

Media specialists in Transylvania County work closely with classroom teachers to help give students the tools they need to enhance their academic subjects.

Students develop their communication skills by conducting interviews with Punxsutawney Phil’s handler, Jason; creating PowerPoint presentations about animals they have researched; and using avatars they create to communicate facts. Creativity is encouraged as students take original photographs and write their own poetry. Students often collaborate on research projects and design ways to present the material they have learned. All the Super Skills are at work.

Music, Art, PE, Media. Critical thinking and problem solving; Communica-tion; Collaboration; and Creativity and innovation; the 4 Cs, the Super Skills. The Transylvania County elementary “specials” teachers guide, encourage, and inspire their students to become critical thinkers, problem solvers, communicators and collaborators who express themselves creatively everyday.

(Thanks to the “specials” teachers at Brevard Elementary School for contributing to this article. DeJong is a fifth grade teacher at Brevard Elementary School.)


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