An innovative curricula has been developed to bring Rapid City’s Main Street Square Sculpture project to local schools. The sculpture, called The Passage of Wind and Water, is an interpretation of the topography, wildlife and diverse cultures of the Black Hills and the Badlands.
Created by an award-winning teacher, the program is being taught to local educators through a Teachers Learning Circle over a 3-month period.
The program not only brings the sculpture project into Rapid City classrooms, but also provides a unique opportunity to enrich education while connecting students with their community.
The sounds of sculptor Masayuki Nagase’s hammer and chisel echoing across the architecture of downtown Rapid City last summer have long since faded into the bustling sounds of everyday life.
But Nagase’s work on The Passage of Wind and Water sculpture remains alive in a school classroom on a cold winter evening in January.
“We are conducting a Teacher Learning Circle,” explains Gabrielle Seeley, “which is a long-term research project that improves instruction in literacy classrooms in the secondary level of Rapid City area schools.”
Gabrielle Seeley is an art and language teacher at Rapid City High School. She’s received a Teacher of the Year Award twice and is considered an innovator in developing engaging instruction for secondary students. Seeley explains that this particular Teacher’s Learning Circle is using high-quality literacy lessons specifically developed around the Passage of Wind and Water sculpture project.
“We wanted to have our students have the experience of this local art project,” says Seeley, ”which is the largest privately-funded public art project in America right now. We wanted to bring that excitement and that amazing opportunity into our classrooms. And we’re doing it through the texts that are in these lessons.”
One of the most popular segments that’s already been used by participating teachers is a field trip lesson. This consists of reading text about the art project and then visiting Main Street Square to perform critical thinking exercises related to the Passage of Wind and Water Sculpture.
“And it’s great to take a group of students there and watch them interact with the art project and also interact with the text in new ways because they are getting the excitement of this current event that’s happening in Rapid City,” Seeley observes. “The creation of this piece of art. And that really makes the learning more relevant to them. It makes it more exciting for them to live in Rapid City.”
Critical thinking exercises include answering such questions as how the placement of the art project causes the student to think about their own connection with nature. Another is having the student explain how they think and feel when they’re in nature. Gabrielle Seeley is not only offering a way to teach students about the sculpture project, but she’s created a curriculum aimed at raising all students’ ability to think.
“The questions in the sculpture project lessons are written very deliberately to honor thinkers,” comments Seeley. “And to raised their levels of thinking as they work with the text and as they work with the questions. Multiple choice tests and matching on tests and worksheets do not honor thinkers. And we cannot expect students to graduate from high school able to think critically unless we treat them as thinkers from the time they enter school in kindergarten.”
It sounds like a tall task, but Gabrielle Seeley can’t imagine a better link for her goal of improving students’ ability to think than a sculpture project being created to help cultures to heal.