The Transylvania Times -

Everyday Education: Non-Core Classes Enhance Multiple Skills


December 17, 2018

The Christmas concert. The presentation of the colors at the football games. The marching band at halftime. The art shows. The yearbook. The musical.

All these products are created by students at Brevard High School, and I could keep on listing things: the masonry work on the school sign, the carpentry students who made the bookshelf in my room, the international, award-winning TIME science program, and so on.

Our students create sophisticated, relevant and inspiring products, produce and organize events, and provide all of us a variety of opportunities to engage with our great community schools.

While some of these activities and products might seem like they’re simply fun productions, the teachers facilitating these groups see just how much learning is occurring during the run-up to the final product.

It’s easy to watch the kids singing and dancing in the musical and think that this is just something they enjoy doing. I suppose many folks acknowledge all the hours of preparation required to create such a production, but there is much more happening than the obvious hours put in. Candice and Charlie Burchill put in countless hours coaching the kids in regards to their acting and singing, but many of the students literally prepare for years to be a part of these productions.

They prepare for theater productions by taking chorus, by taking theater courses, by taking technical theater courses, and so on. Of course, this endeavor teaches students the importance of committing themselves to a project that will require a great deal of time and dedication.

However, there are many other, less noticeable skills these students are acquiring.

Here’s what I have learned about what students learn since I have taken on the role of the facilitator of a production class.

•Long term planning and delayed gratification. It’s easy to watch kids playing video games, eating fast food, and texting and think: Wow, all their fun is right there at their fingertips.

Not always — the kids in production courses spend hours designing prom tickets in Mrs. Ronneburger’s first period Digital Media course. Tickets that hundreds of people will see and probably never realize students made those professional quality tickets.

They not only sing and dance in the theater productions, but they also work with other classes to build the sets, spending hours and hours during and after the school day to create sets they will use months later.

•Collaboration. As a parent of a former member of BHS’s award-winning marching band, I have watched a group of nearly 100 students work during sweltering temperatures three whole weeks before school even begins for the general student population. They work together to create a seamless production that wows judges at their competitions and community members during halftime at football games.

In fact, many companies now require employees to work together to generate ideas and create new products.

An analysis in Forbes magazine claims that workers “who were primed to act collaboratively stuck at their task 64 percent longer than their solitary peers, whilst also reporting higher engagement levels, lower fatigue levels and a higher success rate. What’s more, this impact persisted for several weeks.”

Project-based learning and many production classes require collaboration at some or even all stages of production. These requirements ensure that our students are creating quality products and that they are prepared to work collaboratively in whatever they choose to do after high school, whether it’s work, college projects or the military.

•Authenticity. The evening before this year’s Murder Mystery Dinner, two of our talented and dedicated teachers received some devastating news and were unable to attend the dinner. These two teachers had coached the kids, planned the event and were in charge of the evening. Their theater and chorus students still put on the event, with minimal help from other teachers. I remember walking into the cafeteria fully expecting to work for several hours to help set up. I went home 30 minutes later when it became clear I was only in the way. The students were so invested in the quality of their production they didn’t need adults there to make sure they were getting the job done. They took ownership and pulled off an excellent performance.

•A sense of purpose and leadership. Yearbook is a student-led class, complete with student editors who are arranged in a hierarchical fashion to ensure students really take ownership of their work, a 220-page book, and every single picture, with the exception of portraits, is taken by a student. They took more than 50,000 pictures last year and there were about 8,000 used in the final product.

We have a budget of $30,000 and the students generate every penny of that by selling business ads, baby ads, and promoting book sales. We receive zero dollars from the county or from the school. They know this and are incredibly proud knowing that they are making something for all their peers and for the community. Their dedication and strong sense of purpose amaze me every year. They know their purpose and work tirelessly to achieve it — to create an aesthetically pleasing book that showcases all our students and their talents while also making a profit so we can continue to make a quality product.

Ok, ok, so I’ve just spent this article bragging about BHS teachers and students. I realize that, but I hope you have also had a chance to recognize how many authentic learning opportunities we really offer. Putting on a play is fun. Painting and displaying your work in the art gallery is a grand old time. Seeing your welding project displayed at the entry to the school is inspiring. But, more importantly, learning valuable, real-world skills and preparing for a job market that demands collaboration, creativity and leadership are the end goals for teachers and students in Transylvania County schools.

(Tinsley teaches English and is the yearbook advisor at Brevard High School.)


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