I n order to learn more about the Roaring Twenties, students at Whitehall High School stepped back in time.
Dozens of juniors and seniors met at a “speakeasy” on the final day of school before the President’s Week holiday.
The event, which students dubbed the “Great Jazzapalooza,” was the culmination of several weeks of research into an era characterized by sustained economic prosperity and a redefining of social and cultural norms.
Many of the students, and even some of the faculty, attended the first-time event dressed in suits, tuxedos, fedoras, and flappers, which helped to redefine the meaning of modern womanhood during the early parts of the 20th century.
The event took place in the eastern-most portion of the large group instruction room and “bouncers” stood outside the doors, permitting only the students who knew the password or were accompanied by a teacher.
Inside, the room was decorated with posters and paintings depicting era-appropriate art, and attendees snacked on foods popular during the time. Some watched cartoons from the 1920’s while others danced as the school’s jazz band performed music.
Junior Brandon Steves described the celebration as “a fun way to learn about the time period,” which was exactly the point.
Despite its jovial nature, the event was meant to be a learning tool, and students in grades six through 10 stopped by throughout the day to learn more about the time period.
“It’s part of a school-wide effort aimed at common core learning standards,” said Karen Short, a high school English teacher and the architect of the event.
In 2010, New York adopted Common Core Learning Standards, and all schools in the state will be required to fully implement the program by the 2013-14 school year.
Common Core Standards seeks to establish consistent lessons and goals across different grade levels and requires that instruction be provided in such a way that students can gain a deeper understanding of the topic.
Short, who is the district’s common core coordinator, has been training faculty for the transition to the new standards, and the Jazzapalooza event was a school-wide effort to employ some of the lessons.
“Everyone (the teachers) is trying to incorporate something from the 1920s,” Short said.
For instance, in Short’s class, students read “The Great Gatsby.” They studied the history of the era in Social Studies and analyzed the stock market crash of 1929 in their math classes. The music department studied artists and songs from the time period, and art students examined the Art Deco style.
“The kids did everything. They find things like boat legging and speakeasies interesting. They find it to be a fascinating time,” Short said.
Principal Kelly McHugh said the idea behind the Common Core Standards is to get teachers on the same page so that lessons are consistently being reinforced, creating a deeper understanding of each subject.
“It’s a paradigm shift in how we teach. We’ve brought the faculty together so they are a more cohesive unit and are collaborating more,” McHugh said.