The 2020-2021 school year will be a historic one at Unity Charter School, not only for all the changes due to the current state of the pandemic but also for the diversification in their world culture program. The need for virtual learning has allowed Unity to look at language acquisition and cultural experiences in novel ways. By reflecting on their successes during the spring distance teaching experience, Unity was able to incubate the new World Culture model.
To meet the needs of their in-person and virtual students, the use of an online language education program will allow Unity families to select one of seven languages to learn during the school year. This program can be utilized at home and in the classroom. While this program allows for language literacy, New Jersey’s World Language core idea that “learning a language involves interpreting meaning from listening, viewing, and reading culturally authentic materials in the target language” remains at the forefront. Students will be introduced to this idea by viewing and interpreting artistic and cultural expressions from around the globe.
Unity Charter School is committed to incorporating the principles of sustainability in everything they do. Kuljis and Halloran (2010) state, “We should persevere in enriching our knowledge of our cultural differences because we can bridge them only if we are aware of them.” Through the principle of “multiple perspectives,” students are made aware of the importance of valuing diverse cultures in order to promote a healthy global future.
Artist in residence, Barbara M. Bickart, will be leading art projects focusing on a variety of cultures selected by the students along with projects focusing on social justice throughout the world.
“Through exploring the art, art history, and material cultures of the world, students always deepen their understanding of cultural differences and ability to understand the world in broader, more complex ways, beyond whatever their personal histories may be. The first question I always ask my students, when meeting a new group is: ‘Why Art?’ I love it when they crinkle up their faces and think about this… inevitably they come up with answers that touch on how important creativity is to them --- on how important it is to have someplace in school where they can explore possibilities through experimentation. I know that studying Art and Culture and making Art always opens up space for students to ask hard questions, questions that engage their critical thinking, that allows them to explore new possibilities, new ways of problem-solving, new ways of considering the world around them. Art starts conversations and I teach because I want to give students opportunities to think big about the world around them and to consider how they can make things, how they can start conversations that open up the possibility of moving the world toward being a more just place. And this begins with learning to appreciate and respect differences. One place to start is through the development of a program like this --- by cultivating cultural appreciation for how others live, what they value, what they make...” Barbara M. Bickart, Artist in Residence, Unity Charter School World Culture Incubation Program.
Unity is looking forward to taking a new approach to language acquisition and cultural understanding. Since the students have a history of thriving in environments where they can construct meaning and express themselves through artistic avenues, this new endeavor is sure to garner successful results.