Two new 'upper house' proposals ready for Danville High School

Two new 'upper house' proposals ready for Danville High School

DANVILLE – A new student-centered program infusing arts and creativity into core subjects. Another where students study a global topic at home and throughout the world.

New courses including drama, photography and sports and entertainment marketing, and the latest technology to support those projects and activities.

These are some of the ideas that Danville High School staff and students hope will take flight in the ACE and GLOBAL "upper houses," starting next school year.

"The teachers are very enthusiastic, and the students are very eager," Assistant Principal Rowdy Fatheree said of GLOBAL House, for which he is the director. "We're already making a difference with some of our activities, and we can't wait to get going 100 percent."

Fatheree and Assistant Principal Phil Cox, the ACE House director, will present proposals for their programs to Danville school board members on Wednesday. The board will take action on the recommendations at a later date, Superintendent Mark Denman said.

School officials launched the houses and Danville New Tech High School last August as part of a restructuring plan to boost student achievement, following the implementation of Freshman House in the 2008-09 school year. All of the houses are small learning environments stressing rigor, relevance and relationships.

Officials fully implemented New Tech, which is based on an established nationwide model. They put teachers and students in GLOBAL and ACE houses to begin building relationships and work together with parents and community partners to customize their programs.

This year, GLOBAL (Global Leadership Outlooks through Business, Action and Learning) has about 500 students and 35 staff. Its mission is to ensure that students have the tools to thrive in an ever-changing global economy.

"We also want answer the age-old question, 'Why are we learning this?' We want to show them the relevance of what they're doing and how it applies to what's going on in the world," Fatheree said.

A key part would be the Global Careers and Professions Program, developed with the help of Vermilion Advantage and Mervis Industries. It will help students identify career paths and post-secondary options that best fit their interests, strengths and values.

"We will track students from the eighth grade through high school. ... It will end up with students in a job internship program in their senior year," Fatheree said. He said the students will gain the knowledge and skills to take them to their next step, whether that's college, the military or the workforce.

ACE (Academy of Creative Experiences) has 475 to 500 students and about 27 staff. Its mission is to integrate arts and creativity into English, math, science and social studies "to give students the imaginative and critical-thinking skills that they'll need to be successful here at Danville High School and in the world," Cox said.

Its cornerstone would be the Artful Learning program, a nationwide school reform model created by the Leonard Bernstein Center.

The program does that through units of study that also show the connections between the arts and various disciplines, and arts-based skills and strategies "that are all about moving from teacher-centered instruction to student-centered," Cox said. "It's all about student engagement."

Teachers would get training this summer and throughout the year, said Cox, who has already taken some to visit schools in Oregon and Louisiana.

"We were blown away with what we saw – the artwork students were producing in their core subjects, the way they saw how different disciplines were related and how the arts fit in and really engaged the students," he said.

Details of 'upper house' proposals

Here are other components of the proposals for Danville High School's GLOBAL and ACE houses:

GLOBAL

-- Each year, the house would focus on a global issue that will be integrated into classes. During each academic quarter, students would study a thematic unit on what's happening locally, in Illinois, in the country and globally.

"Next year, we're going to focus on energy," GLOBAL House Director Rowdy Fatheree said, adding Danville has been Energy Star district for its conservation efforts the past two years.

Students would begin studying wind energy by touring a wind farm and learning about Danville Area Community College's wind energy technician program, among other things.

The house also would partner with Illiana Power of Terre Haute, Ind., to put solar panels on the high school.

"Students will study how much energy the school can conserve by using them," he said.

-- The house will start a GLOBAL Ambassador program, encouraging students to "go above and beyond in the areas of community service and cultural experiences,"

-- Students would be required to take two years of foreign language and global courses, including new courses, and make a digital portfolio, among other things.

-- The house would expand activities with its sister school in Taiwan.

-- The house would continue community service activities, including a clean-up at Kennekuk County Park in April. It held a clean-up at Kickapoo State Park last April, and collected 1,000 cans of food for the St. James United Methodist Church food pantry in November. Students are selling cookies to raise money for earthquake victims in Haiti.

ACE

-- The house would have a new fine arts course requirement for its sophomores, along with new ACE-exclusive courses. New courses would be drama, photography, design and intro to fine arts (art and music history and appreciation).

-- The house would continue special activities. Students plan to follow up an "American Idol" type of competition, which aired on Channel 1, with a dance competition.

"We're organizing a fine arts fair for May," ACE House Director Phil Cox said, adding the house would partner with local arts organizations to put it on.

-- Students would integrate more technology into the classroom.

Cox said teachers would have Mac laptops, and classrooms would have portable Mac labs. Students would learn how to use a range of applications to shoot and edit videos and many other projects.

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