CLAS partners with Hillsboro High to share expertise, develop unique curriculum

Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools has joined with the Vanderbilt Center for Nashville Studies and Peabody College to create a platform to provide detailed, reliable and recurring information about the commitment of major employers to the public school system. This is the first article in a series that tells the story of collaborative involvement between members of the Vanderbilt community and local public schools.

Hillsboro High School students participated in a screening of the film “La Camioneta: the Journey of One American School Bus” at the Belcourt Theatre in January 2013. The event was co-sponsored by Vanderbilt’s Center for Latin American Studies and the Belcourt. (Shelley Justiss/Belcourt Theatre)

Last year, Vanderbilt had a presence in 32 Metro Nashville public elementary schools, 25 middle schools and five high schools through student tutors, faculty researchers and advisers and direct programming. One of these schools, just a five-minute drive from Vanderbilt’s campus, is home to a partnership between the Center for Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt and faculty, staff and students within Hillsboro High School’s Academy of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.

Designated a Comprehensive National Resource Center on Latin America by the U.S. Department of Education, CLAS has a mission focused on teaching, research and outreach. The center consults with regional business and cultural organizations and works closely with a number of area nonprofits, including Metro Nashville schools. Its relationship with Hillsboro High School, in particular, has evolved from providing professional development workshops to an active exchange of expertise and curriculum, all of which directly support student learning and achievement.

“Hillsboro has very engaged teachers in their IB program. They regularly attend CLAS workshops, and now they serve on the CLAS teacher advisory board. Last year, I was asked to chair their IB advisory board,” said Claire González, director of outreach at CLAS and a former K-12 Spanish teacher.

Four Hillsboro High School teachers participated in a weeklong externship this summer working with CLAS faculty and staff to create an interdisciplinary, project-based curriculum based on the film La Camioneta: the Journey of One American School Bus. The film was already familiar to the Hillsboro High community, since several hundred 10th and 11th graders from the IB academy’s foreign language and media classes participated in a screening at Belcourt Theatre in January 2013. Co-sponsored by CLAS, the event featured a conversation with director Mark Kendall, who earned a master’s in Latin American studies at Vanderbilt in 2009, and CLAS Director and Professor of Anthropology Edward F. Fischer.

With the movie as a backdrop, the summer externship participants—teachers of AP human geography, critical theory, art and French—spent their time with Vanderbilt faculty from a number of departments exploring “the story of stuff,” González explained.

Now back in their classrooms, these four teachers are leading their ninth- through 12th-grade students in subject-specific, project-based learning about the global supply chain, the nature of consumption, determining what is trash and what is treasure through the artist’s perspective, and examining the economic and environmental impact of America as a country of consumers, González said.

In addition to using the curriculum with their own students, the teachers—as part of their externship experience—shared their original content with other teachers within the IB academy as well as with faculty at other high schools and academies within Metro schools.

According to Thao Tran King, academy coach at Hillsboro High School, the support of business partners such as Vanderbilt is critical.

“Our students have come to see Vanderbilt as approachable and familiar,” King said. “[rquote]It’s really important to note that Vanderbilt is a highly distinguished school, and our students are thrilled that Vanderbilt faculty and staff are interested in them as high school students.[/rquote] When students see that business partners care, it really makes a positive impression.”

Other partnerships between Vanderbilt and Hillsboro High School include Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the Center for Science Outreach and the Vanderbilt Sports Medicine Program’s support of faculty and students at Hillsboro’s Academy of Global Health and Science.

Mark your calendar

Those with school-aged children are invited to the 2013 First Choice Festival scheduled for Monday, Sept. 23, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. Hosted by Metro Nashville Public Schools, the festival is a showcase of all public school choice options and educational opportunities, including charter schools. Families attending have a unique opportunity to meet with school representatives and to learn how to apply to Optional Schools.

story by Whitney Weeks