One of the central themes of instruction at Arts in Action is Building a more Just, Humane and Sustainable World. Throughout their experience at Arts in Action, students will explore various social issues through the lens of justice, humanity, and sustainability. Students will also be encouraged to engage in purposeful action that can help to address those social issues. At AIA, purposeful action is defined by the following:
- Instructional content, while grounded in California content standards, is presented in ways that often holds interest and/or personal meaning for learners, often growing out of learners’ interest and concerns.
- Instructional content is consistent with the school-wide goal of preparing students to take strategic action for a more just, humane and sustainable world.
- Connections between the classroom work, the surrounding communities, and the world beyond the community are clear.
- Students “learn by doing,” using hands-on activities, powerful projects and experiential learning and practicing the methods of each discipline as an adult expert would.
- Learners actively pose and solve problems, producing products and building understandings.
- Students often learn not just as scholars, but as people who take action to effect change in the world.
- Students perform authentic intellectual work, which involves original application of knowledge and skills, rather than just routine use of facts and procedures. It also entails disciplined inquiry into the details of a particular problem and results in a product or presentation that has meaning or value beyond success in school.
- Students’ work develops higher order thinking and skills and habits needed to thrive in the modern world.
Our definition of purposeful action is important as it differentiates our social justice units from more typical service learning activities that do not challenge students to think deeply on how social issues are interrelated, how they affect individuals differently, and what the particular issue means to their own lives.
Students study one social justice issue per trimester. The units contain at least one action project and they incorporate art in both the art class and in the performance task. We believe this provides the students with truly interdisciplinary content that supports their learning.