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How Pioneer Valley infuses art into Mandarin

July 26, 2011

From the Asia Society newsletter

The Arts as Inquiry

Animate Language Learning 

(Asia Society Museum)(Asia Society Museum)

By Heather Clydesdale

When students of Chinese explore art in conjunction with language, they not only have fun, they unravel abstract concepts, deepen cultural understanding, and build language proficiency. There are many ways to enliven lessons, whether by encouraging students to create their own masterpieces, or by helping them investigate and analyze artworks in museums or online collections.

Kathleen Wang, founder and principal of the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Massachusetts advocates infusing the arts throughout the curriculum, explaining, “Many subjects or concepts are so abstract and packed with content that it is difficult for students to retain and effectively use. Students must smell, taste, hear, touch, or see abstract subjects and concepts so that the curriculum is more meaningful and more connected to students personally.”

Wang and her faculty blend the arts into all subject areas to create what Wang calls “an environment that is full of sensory experiences.” In their K–8 classrooms, language and culture go hand-in-hand through storytelling, poetry, movement, the visual arts, drama, and music.

HsiuWen Hsieh, a teacher at Pioneer Valley explains, “In my second year at the school, I realized we are not teaching Chinese language. Instead we are using Chinese as a tool to teach our children to understand themselves, and learn about life.” Hsieh describes how the children study botany through art, creating large paper trees with personalized leaves. In other classes, they sing songs, fabricate costumes, craft birthday boards, erect stages for puppet shows, write stories, practice calligraphy, design storybooks, and perform dramatic pieces.

Read more here.

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