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TC to Create Study Guide for HBO's "Masterclass"

Margaret Crocco and Hal Abeles to partner with EdLab and Teachers College Press
TC to Create Study Guide for HBO’s “Masterclass”

Margaret Crocco and Hal Abeles to partner with EdLab and Teachers College Press

NEW YORK (NY) – Teachers College, Columbia University, has been awarded a two-year, $1,045,690 grant from the Young Arts Educational Foundation to create a study guide to accompany nine shows from the first year of the HBO television series “Masterclass.”

The nine-part series chronicles the Young Arts Program of the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts, which offers select high school students from around the country the chance to be mentored by some of the world’s greatest artists. The first year of the series featured tenor Placido Domingo, playwright Edward Albee, actress Liv Ullman, dance impresario Jacques d’Amboise and visual artist Olafur Elliason, among others. The series is produced and directed by the Emmy Award winners Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon, the creators of “Chimps: So Like Us,” “Heart of a Child,” “Kindergarten” and “Rehearsing a Dream.”

The interdisciplinary study guide will present discussion questions and learning activities keyed to the arts as well as math, science, English Language Arts and social studies.

Margaret Crocco, Professor of Social Studies and Education, and Hal Abeles, Professor of Music Education, are prime investigators for the grant. They will partner with the EdLab unit of TC’s Gottesman Libraries, which will create a website for research, evaluation, professional development and outreach efforts related to the project. Teachers College Press will manufacture and distribute 50,000 DVDs and copies of the study guide for U.S. middle- and high schools. The website, which will be fully functional by June 2012, will allow for free downloading of the study guide.

“Teachers College shares with the Young Arts organization a concern that arts education has been marginalized over the last decade of educational reform via No Child Left Behind with its emphasis on literacy, numeracy, science and technology in K-12 schooling,” Crocco and Abeles wrote in their proposal for the project. “The narrowing of the curriculum and heightened emphasis on accountability has resulted in an overemphasis on tested subjects. Combined with school district budget cuts initiated since 2008, the above trends have meant that subjects stimulating creativity and imagination have been dramatically de-emphasized. Teachers are hungry for new materials that provide novel and attractive ways of engaging students in learning that promotes creativity and imagination.”

While assembling national advisory board for the project, Crocco and Abeles will work with the filmmakers to develop other video assets for the Web site that will provide additional insights into the ways in which selected “masters” developed their artistic expertise. Together with the filmmakers, they also will procure additional footage of other forms of mastery such as local students in Double Dutch contests or slam poetry jams.

Crocco, who is also Chair of the Department of Arts and Humanities at TC, spearheaded two earlier social studies curriculum projects tied to the arts. She led the Teaching the Levees project, a curriculum for middle- and high schools based on Spike Lee’s documentary about Hurricane Katrina, When the Levees Broke; and “Let Freedom Swing,” based on short films about the relationships between jazz and democracy.

TC will approach professional organizations such as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the National Council for Teachers of English, the National Association of Music Educators, and the National Art Education Association to ensure that the final products of the effort reach appropriate audiences.

Patricia Lamiell, 212-678-3979

Published Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011


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