Instructional Media Initiatives: Focusing on the Educational Resources Center at Thirteen/WNET, New York, New York: American Masters: An Award-Winning Series Celebrating Cultural Artists
Donlevy, Jim, International Journal of Instructional Media
Thirteen/WNET has a long history of providing quality television programming to viewers. In its American Masters series, created in 1984, Thirteen has focused on creativity and the lives of artists contributing to a rich cultural identity in the United States. Trends and movements shaping that identity are explored in the series, as well as, individual contributions in film, music, literature and other areas of artistic expression. This brief article describes the series and discusses its use in the classroom including lesson plans and Internet resources for teachers.
The American Masters series has profiled many influential cultural artists, with attention to appropriate backgrounds and contexts. Such attention highlights individual contributions against prevailing historical and intellectual currents. The series provides comprehensive biographies that catalogue individual achievement and show cultural history as it unfolds in a variety of settings.
Among others, the following U.S. artists have been included in the series: James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Alexander Calder, Lon Chaney, Charlie Chaplin, Aaron Copeland, Clint Eastwood, Martha Graham, Helen Hayes, Billie Holiday, Muddy Waters, Eugene O'Neill, Paul Robeson, Paul Simon and Andy Warhol.
American Masters has earned prestigious awards, nominations and numerous accolades for excellence and creativity in programming. These include Emmys, four Peabody awards, a Grammy award, 19 Cine Golden Eagles and three Oscar nominations.
USING THE SERIES IN THE CLASSROOM
The American Masters series is appropriate for classroom use and Thirteen/WNET has provided a variety of lesson plans and Internet resources for teacher use and exploration (www.thirteen.org,). The lesson plans contain an overview, procedures for teachers and organizers for students. These segments offer specific educational activities with subject matter and learning objectives tied to the series programs. They also are linked to appropriate national educational standards.
A stimulating lesson plan for the program highlighting Muddy Waters, the great Chicago Blues musician, for example, covers the Great Migration of Black Southerners to the North, discusses geography, transportation, history, music, culture and civil rights, and references primary source materials and Internet sites for further consideration. …