by Mitch Lehman
Starting in the fall, San Marino High School will partner with The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens to provide a groundbreaking learning experience for twenty-two seniors and juniors, who will receive access to collections not available to the general public.
“This is a real game-changer,” said Amanda Hernandez, an English teacher at SMHS who, along with art instructor Michelle Pauline will serve as co-educators.
Combining the disciplines of literature and art – “blending,” in the new education vernacular – students in the Honors Humanities Seminar will spend one day each week in class at The Huntington, one day each week at SMHS and the remaining three days in on-line instruction.
The course curriculum , which will be developed by Fernandez and Pauline under the guidance of Doug Berry, San Marino High School’s assistant principal of instruction and guidance, will be presented to the University of California to be approved as a college prep elective.
“We want to provide that college learning environment here at San Marino High School,” Berry told The Tribune at a Tuesday afternoon meeting. “This marks a new approach to learning at the secondary level, blending two different subjects with instruction taking place at two different locations. We are very excited about the prospects.”
The genesis of the idea sprung from Superintendent Alex Cherniss, who was looking for a unique manner in which to use local resources.
“We are very excited about this project,” Cherniss said. “This class will greatly enhance our district’s college prep offering. To have a world-class cultural and educational organization such as The Huntington offering this unique course for our students. This will turn the traditional model of education on its head.”
Cherniss also added that the students will have access to documents “the general public cannot see.”
When presented with the concept, Fernandez and Pauline toured The Huntington and “brainstormed,” according to Fernandez. “We were looking for ways in which we could connect English and Art and align the curriculum with the standard. We are very excited with the result of our efforts.”
One such component includes a portrait project. Fernandez explains.
“During the semester, many of the students will be working on their college essays,” she said. “We are developing a project whereby the students will incorporate their essays with a portrait they will create to get them thinking about how they view themselves and how they feel they are viewed, both in writing and through a visual medium.”
Students will apply this spring for a slot in the year-long, ten-unit class which will coincide with typical fall registration. Fernandez and Pauline will soon visit English and Art classes to explain the vision.
Classes at The Huntington will be held in the new education and visitors center and the students will have special access to staff curators.
I will be interested to hear about the combination of art and literature,” Fernandez said. “It will be fascinating when the students are able to discover the connection between the two. This will be a tremendous experience for all of us.”