When Baden Academy students go to their weekly Calliope class, they don’t do typical arts and crafts projects. Instead, the Calliope program (pronounced ka-LIE-oh-pee) is combination of literary arts and visual arts and has been thoughtfully designed to support our mission of arts integration and our approach to a classical education. The name itself comes from the Greek goddess Calliope, one of the nine mythological Muses who were thought to inspire humans to learn, create, and share ideas. And our Calliope program inspires our students to do the same.
Our Calliope teachers lay the foundation of a project through some sort of story—whether it’s a fairy tale, fable, myth, or modern story. Then they pull in anything from history and geography to science, biography, language, and math in order to lead students through a hands-on art project. This interdisciplinary approach trains students to look for important connections between art and other subjects, and helps them gain a broader and deeper understanding of concepts.
The projects in Calliope are also designed to instill students with what are known as “habits of mind”—things like observation, persistence, expression, vision, and reflection. This approach helps students see art as yet another way to think and solve problems, and allows them to experience the joy that comes from creating with curiosity, wonder, and confidence.
A fifth grade project begins with the teacher’s retelling of the mythical Greek architect Daedalus. They then study Greek architecture, learn architectural terms, find connections with the scale and measurement lessons they’ve done in math class, and look at examples of Frank Lloyd Wright’s modern designs. The culminating project involves students drawing plans for a building of their own design, incorporating what they’ve learned about math, basic physics, aesthetics, and environmental issues.
A Calliope project for second grade involves a lesson based on a storybook about Navaho weaving that the students read with their classroom teachers. The Calliope teacher then guides students through a scientific study of solar dyeing and has them make predictions about the colors natural objects will produce. Students learn patience as they wait for dyeing process to work—avocados turn yarn pink, by the way!—and then they create weavings using natural materials they’ve gathered themselves.