Roy Gilham is teaching his sixth grade class at Wheaton Woods Elementary School in Rockville the myth of Prometheus.Desks have been pushed aside. The students are spaced about a large central area, listening intently to Gilham.
"You're Prometheus Remember, you're chained to that rock. Here comes an eagle. He's going to tear at your insides. You try to move, but you can't break free. The pain is terrible. Can you feel it?"
Twisting their bodies and faces in imaginary pain, the children lean back against imaginary rocks.
"The eagle goes. The pain leaves. You start to feel beeter, but here comes another eagle," says Gilham.
The children momentarily relax, look up and see the imaginary eagle, then grow tense and begin to twist their bodies again.
Later, the children make word lists to describe their actions and their feelings.
Roy Gilham has learned to use movement as a tool for teaching through a staff development program in the Montgomery County Public School System. Known as Interrelated ARTS (Arts Resources Teams in the Schools), the program is administered by the school system's Division of Aesthetic Education.
Dick Pioli, director of the division, is, as far as he knows, the only director with such a title in any school system in the country. More significant his title, however, is the place of his division within the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, said Pioli. The Division of Aesthetic Education is equal in importance to the other four divisions, including that of the Division of Academic skills.
"Aesthetic literacy is fundamental to a well-rounded educational program," Superintendent Charles Bernardo has said.
"The concept we're trying to promote is that the arts are basic," said Pioli. "The things that children bring into school are creativity, imagination and an eagerness to move. All learning should be based on those natural elements already in every child. The arts are a way of latching onto those natural forces."
The Division of Aesthetic Education was established in July 1975. Its purpose was to help implement a statement of public policy on educational goals that were adopted by the county's board of education in February 1973, Pioli said. Included in those goals "for which the citizens will hold the school system responsible and accountable" were academic skills, physical development, intellectual development and asethetic expression.
Aesthetic expression was defined as a student's ability "to sense and appreciate beauty in the world around him, whether created by natural or man." According to Bernardo, "it is through the arts that these sensibilities are developed."
The Division of Aesthetic Education uses a twofold approach. Specialists teach the arts as discrete subjects to children. Montgomery County does not, however, have enough music and art specialists to provide the 100 minutes per week of arts instruction recommended by the country for its students in kindergarten through the sixth grade. The specialists can provide only about half of that time, said Pioli.
The rest is left to classroom teachers and here is where the program can bog down, said music coordinator Phyllis Kaplan. Sometimes the follow-up teachning is not done, agrees art coordinator Esther Bynum. It depends partly on the interest and experience of the teacher Bynum said.
To meet this situation the Division of Aesthetic Education has the Interrelated ARTS program to help teachers develop confidence in working with the arts and to stimulate their use of all the arts within the curriculum.
Both approaches, the one working with students and the other with teachers, have the same goal - to provide an aesthetic edcuation for the children of Montgomery County, Pioli said.
Citizen input has played a significant role in focusing attention on the arts in education in the county. In the early 1970s, Concerned Citizens for the Arts in Public Schools (CCAPS) came into being as an independent advocacy group. Its members included cultural arts chairpeople for the local PTAs, teachers in the arts, representatives from area universities as well as parents and private individuals. As an outgrowth of its exchanges with CCAPS, the board of education in 1973 appointed a task force to study the arts program in the schools.
In its subsequent report to the board, the task force recommended that an intensive staff development program in the arts be initiated. The following school year, 1974-75. Project ARTS began.
For the first three years of its existence.Project ARTS was funded jointly by the county and the federal government. Federal funds came through the Office Education under Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act (ESEA).
In the 1977-78 school, year Montgomery County took over complete funding of the program. According, Project ARTS this year became the Interrelated ARTS program of the Montgomery County Public School System.
The program is carried out by three teams, each consisting of a drama, dance/movement, music and art person. These teams conduct a four-level teacher re-training program in elementary schools around the county. Teacher participation in the program is voluntary. This year the teams are servicing 35 schools.
Level one is an orientation workshop that introduces teachers to the idea of integrating the arts into the classroom. Level two is an inservice course offering knowledge and experience in the arts. At level three, the ARTS team conducts demonstrations in the teacher's classroom and works on a one-to-one basis to help teachers develop their own interrelated arts approach. At level four, the teacher continues to develop use of the arts with support and consultantion from the ARTS team.
Teachers in Montgomery County who use the Interrelated ARTS approach in their classroom are positive about its benefits.
"I love it," says Roy Gilham, teacher for 23 years. "It's making the classroom much more vital and alive. When parents say that their children want to come to school even if they're sick, you know you must be getting through."