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The art of learning

Fountaindale students in magnet program receive an enriched curriculum in fine arts.

Fountaindale students in magnet program receive an enriched curriculum in fine arts.

November 11, 2002|BY PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Their toes barely touch the ground as they sit in canvas rocking chairs writing poetry silently.

A child grabs a dictionary without supervision, another fixes a printer and a third writes passionately, tucked alone at a corner desk, while their teacher all but blends among the petite students surrounding her.

The Fountaindale School for Arts and Academic Excellence has begun its fourth month of business as unusual.

The elementary school is the first magnet school of its kind in Washington County for academically gifted students. It is composed of 20 students in a second/third grade class and 20 more in a fourth/fifth grade class.

As a whole, the school works under a fine arts model, meaning that all students enrolled at the school will receive an enriched curriculum in fine arts.

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In Lesley Kotlanger's combined fourth/fifth grade magnet class, the children were researching world holidays to be read over the radio and writing short stories to be entered into a young author's contest.

Guyton Cade, 9, sat alone at a long white table in the back of the classroom writing his short story.

"We're only allowed to write 50 to 75 words and I'm already over," Cade said.

Andrew Creager, 9, was typing up his mother's biography on Alphasmart, a mini-laptop that connects to the main classroom computer, before he tied up his own short story, "The Man with Too Many Lego Sets."

Kotlanger said the magnet program's theme is "Building a Nation." The children began the year writing about themselves and will end it writing about the world.

Principal Elaine Semler said having the gifted students in combined classes doesn't inhibit their learning level because gifted students need to socialize and have opportunities to lead. In that environment they get both, she said.

Semler said as far as the fine arts curriculum, other students aren't missing out either. A member of the Moscow Ballet and a bagpipe player have already come to the school to teach, she said.

"We want more excitement on a day-to-day basis to be in school," Semler said.

Kari Kitt, music teacher at the school, taught a song to a fourth-grade class called "Autumn Leaf."

The difference between Kitt's class and a regular music class is that Kitt taught the song specifically to their curriculum that currently focuses on chlorophyll, which gives plants their green color, Semler said.

The same holds true in the art room, where art teacher Tina Condon had students make clay figures of animals they studied in their regional unit.

"There's not one child, in whatever range, whose needs can't be met here," Semler said.

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