Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Class Observes Culture, from Within

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Class Observes Culture, from Within

Article excerpt

The best way to teach students to appreciate another culture is to let them experience it firsthand, says Pamela Randall, a dance teacher at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School.

"It's very simple to sit in the classroom, hand out books and tell our students that we have to appreciate other cultures," she says. "But the most effective teaching tool is to go to other places."

To illustrate her point, Randall took four students in her advanced dance class to Paris for six days last month in spring break. Four students from the Ray Parks Academy of Dance and four adult chaperons also went on the trip.

"Ray also teaches here," Randall says. "All of his students attend county schools, and we were trying to get an exchange going between city and county schools."

Randall says she thinks her students were the first to travel overseas as part of a class in the St. Louis Public Schools.

"It was surprising to me that when I first presented this trip, there were a lot of naysayers," Randall says. "There were a lot of people who said, `You'll never get the board to approve this, you'll never get the money.' "

While the school board did not sanction the trip because it was in spring break, Randall says she was surprised at how easy it was to get students interested. She presented the trip to just the 18 students in her advanced dance class, and four signed up. Because of this, she is planning a 10-day trip next year to France, Italy and Switzerland.

Each of the four Central Visual students received $325 toward the $940 trip from the profit of the dance department's spring dance concert, Randall says. The rest they raised through candy sales and on their own.

"I sold candy on my own and had this little sign that said things like `I'll give you a dollar because you're cute' or `I'll give you a dollar so you'll leave me alone,' " says junior Aja Wood, one of the Central Visual students who went on the trip.

Randall says another reason she wanted to take her students abroad - and particularly to Paris - was for artistic reasons.

"Paris is like an art mecca," she explains.

The students toured the Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral, saw the Eiffel Tower and took a cruise on the Seine River. …

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