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Spring 2002

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School collaboration expanding

     After two years of educational outreach and creative interconnection, Skidmore’s Expanding Horizons program has more than lived up to its name.
     Expanding Horizons was formed to foster collaborative learning between Skidmore College and the rural school district of Schuylerville, N.Y., about ten miles east of Saratoga Springs. Through EH, Skidmore students gain real-world field experience and Schuylerville pupils gain enrichment opportunities and an exposure to college life.
     Although the EH director, Ruth Andrea Levinson, is an education professor, she maintains, “It has always been more than just an education department program. It’s a K–16 partnership involving people from across the disciplines.”
Dance educator Susan Griss works with kids at Schuylerville Elementary School.
     From its kickoff and first brainstorming sessions at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, EH went on to facilitate more than a dozen activities in its first year—a “1,000 Books” preschool literacy program, an eighth-grade minicollege, parent workshops on college search and financial aid, a National Girls and Women in Sport Day celebration, and arts and music classes. Skidmore students provided before-school writing workshops and after-school mentoring for Schuylerville students. Skidmore’s special-programs office provided scholarship aid for Schuylerville students and teachers to attend summer programs on campus. Both institutions shared visiting artists.
    EH’s largest undertaking was last summer’s South Africa tour by fourteen Skidmore education students, four Skidmore faculty members, and two Schuylerville elementary teachers.
     This year’s events have included a visit by Gilbert “Bobbo” Ahiagble, a Ghanaian master weaver, who worked with Schuylerville elementary students to create kente cloth and helped keynote the Tang’s exhibit Africa Embodied: The Language of Adornment, organized by students of Skidmore art historian Lisa Aronson.
     In another artist residency, dance educator Susan Griss worked with Skidmore education majors and also students in the “Dance for the Child” course and then spent a day at Schuylerville Elementary, using movement to explore themes like South African boot dance and the underground railroad.
     In conjunction with the Tang’s spring exhibit Staging the Indian, Skidmore students of Aronson and anthropologist Jill Sweet collaborated with Schuylerville teachers and Tang educator Susi Kerr to tailor a special museum tour and outreach materials that integrated with the Schuylerville curriculum. And, as a fun, effective way to introduce youngsters to physics, the Society of Physics Students at Skidmore offered elementary-school pupils a short, comic play on the theory of falling bodies, starring Aristotle and Galileo.
     Initially supported by the Educational Foundation of America, the Prentice Foundation, and a gift from Virginia Payne Morse ’63, EH is now seeking long-term funding. It’s an easy case to make, says Levinson. Not only is it “a model for town-gown relations,” but as this region’s only K-16 collaboration between a liberal-arts college and a public school, EH is ahead of the curve: the latest New York State standards require all teacher-education programs to develop in-depth collaborations with local schools by 2004.
     Levinson is delighted by the “vigorous grassroots response” to this innovative partnership. “I’m not out there drumming up business any more,” she says. “People come to me now.” —KG


© 2002 Skidmore College