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US school embraces experiential learning with spoken word artist

Spoken word artist, Cedric Hameed

Spoken word artist, Cedric Hameed

As part of the new focus on approaches to teaching and learning, Riverview Highschool in Sarasota, Florida, USA embraced experiential learning with the help of a spoken word artist, Cedric Hameed. As the school’s artist-in-residence, Cedric worked with the Theory of knowledge (TOK) instructional team to craft a comprehensive and integrated approach to TOK and approaches to teaching and learning. The team specifically focussed on the Arts as a Way of Knowing.

Jackie Henson-Dacey, the school’s IB visual arts, and TOK instructor, tells us about the experience.

What was the goal of this collaboration?

Thanks to a generous grant from The Education Foundation of Sarasota County, funding was provided to create a performance-based curriculum unit and a residency program for the TOK course.


Mapping the concept (student group work)

It was essential to design this curriculum to focus on skills within a context that has personal relevance. It was also essential to allow students to engage and grapple with issues of ethics, value judgments, and belief systems in an arts integration framework. The overall objective was about active student engagement and involvement, and experiential learning through the arts.

Tell us about the theme

Using the theme of “homelessness”, the activities were intended to cultivate arts and performance-based products that helped demonstrate an awareness of this social concern. The activities encouraged students to take charge of their own learning.

A piece of student and teacher collaborative artwork “Homeless Montage.”

A piece of student and teacher collaborative artwork “Homeless Montage.”

Some students became frustrated with the theme because they became aware that the questions raised by the research did not have a solution; there was no right or wrong answer. Allowing students to reflect on this realization, both individually and within collaborative groups, promoted heavy discussions around initiating positive social change through arts-based performances.

How did it work in practice?

Guided by the instructional team and artist-in-residence, our students:

  • designed purposeful strategies associated with the arts that developed skills in communication and awareness of attitudes that permeate any social issue
  • designed their own meaningful experiences within a practical and theoretical framework
  • gained a sense of freedom, demonstrated by self-efficacy through research skills, communication skills, thinking skills, self-management skills, and most importantly for this project, social skills
  • produced short films, skits, artworks, songs, spoken word compositions and raps as part of their final assessment
  • organized a day of arts-based performances plus all associated promotional materials
Samantha’s composition (student work)

Samantha’s composition (student work)