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Area teachers 'forge' collaborative learning

(L to R) Shana Pazdernik-Hensch, Trina Kinney, Liza Klettke, Blake Groe, Jason Boe, and Tammy Olson, teachers from New York Mills High School, participated in the Forging Bonds Workshop Monday. Submitted photo

While the blazing August weather in East Otter Tail County may feel like a furnace blast, selected teachers from across West Central Minnesota, including New York Mills and Perham, have been doubling down on the heat by actually working over a red-hot iron forge.

The teachers are gathered at New York Mills High School this week for a groundbreaking three-day workshop called Forging Bonds Across Disciplines Through the Arts.

The workshop is presented by the Perpich Center for Arts Education.

The teachers are working with noted teaching artist and metalworker Marcia McEachron, using ancient blacksmithing techniques updated with space age technology.

McEachron is instructing the teachers in metal craft, iron sculpture and welding.

In addition to the hands-on metal work, the teachers are studying collaborative learning, team building and learning techniques to boost stu-dent achievement through the arts.

Research shows that teachers who participate in ongoing professional development create more dynamic classrooms, which has a direct link to achievement.

However, many school districts are too financially pressed to provide for such professional development. Part of The Perpich Center's mission is to fill that gap.

Teachers participating in the workshop are both arts and non-arts teachers from elementary, middle and high schools across the region.

The workshop is part of the Perpich Arts Integration Project, funded by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

The ten county Lakes Country Region was selected as the first region to benefit from the project.

Project goals include the improvement of standards-based student achievement across content areas in and through the arts, improved quality and scope of standards based arts education, implementation of a collaborative and integrative approach to teaching and learning based on research and models in and through the arts, professional development for best practice in arts integration for teachers and administrators, and applied technology to support processional development and the statewide dissemination of project results.

A second teacher workshop, also facilitated by the Perpich Center for Arts Education, will be held in New York Mills August 9 through 11.