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Collaboration in the High School

We talk a lot about the 4 C’s that frame our academic program – Citizenship, Critical Thinking, Courage, and Creativity. Collaboration isn’t one of our four C’s, but it holds the 4 C’s together, making them possible and enhancing the value of each. We ask our students to collaborate in class, on the court, and on the stage. However, the high school faculty is also invested in collaboration. Collaboration between teachers happens in many ways, often small. I wanted to highlight two larger and newer ways that faculty collaboration is leading to dynamic interdisciplinary courses.
African American History and African American Literature were our first collaborative and interdisciplinary pair of courses. This is the 2nd year of this collaboration between History teacher Tom Murphy and English teacher Heather Brubaker. I sat down with Tom to ask him how did this start? He told me that, “initially this was driven by student interest in African American History and African American Literature classes. Heather and I discussed what that would look like, and decided to try something experimental. Instead of having two separate classes, we decided to have one class taught by two teachers.” Students are in both classes simultaneously, “and although they meet at different times, they are addressing the same basic themes, and have a common final. The students’ work in History gives a frame for their discussions of literature, and vice versa.” It was hugely successful and is running in the same format this year, with robust interest and engagement.
The possibility of offering a class taught by two teachers opened up other opportunities. Science Elective - Anatomy and Physiology and 3D Arts Elective - Écorché is a new collaboration this year.  Écorché (French: flayed figure) is an anatomical representation of all or part of a body with the skin removed so as to display the musculature. I asked Alan how this unique collaboration began. He told me, “It started with a conversation about how I wanted to teach the Anatomy and Physiology course with James (French, Studio Art teacher). He told me about how Shauna (Finn, 3D Art Teacher) creates these amazing sculptures with the muscles showing.”  Alan wanted to teach about specific muscles and bones, and find ways to build an authentic and purposeful experience that extends the learning outside of the science classroom. He has many students interested in Pre-Med and Sports Medicine, and this collaboration would add a real hands-on approach. Shauna shared her experience in art school. Making one of these sculptures is one of the hardest things for an artist to do. This venture would develop their students’ art skills as well, and pull on their knowledge of the body to enhance their skills as an artist.
After their initial conversation, Alan and Shauna thought, “why don’t we offer a class where students take their skills from Anatomy and Physiology and apply it in the art classroom, and deepening their understanding. We would align Anatomy and Physiology with Écorché, and it would allow students to go really in depth around the content” They both thought this would be really unique and exciting!  Alan also spoke about how he, “enjoys talking with Shauna, she is a great teacher who brings different skills to her work with students in the classroom.” He feels this a great way for him to extend himself as a teacher and a learner while also challenging students to apply what they are learning.
That is what collaboration is all about, deepening your learning by working with others. Challenging each other, supporting each other, and learning with each other - our teachers are able to model that work for their students.  

Micah Dov Gottlieb,
High School Principal