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A Lesson, for a Song

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With any luck, elementary-school students in Fulton County, Ga., will soon be inviting parents and teachers--and perhaps even members of the Atlanta Opera Guild--to attend opening-night performances of their unique, operatic versions of "Peter Pan," "Robin Hood," and "The Tortoise and the Hare."

The performances will mark the culmination of "Opera Works for Learning," a six-week interdisciplinary program designed to promote children's learning through creative activity. Under the guidance of Carroll Rinehart, a nationally known music educator and author who is currently the school district's artist-in-residence, students at three schools have been busy creating plots, writing dialogue, and composing melodies for their operas.

Creating an opera teaches students about many things besides music, notes Joanna Rainey, the district's fine-arts and humanities consultant. Developing dialogue requires language-arts skills, she says, while staging and creating sets calls for mathematical ability.

"We are using the art form of opera as the vehicle to creative learning," she explains.

The program is funded by the Atlanta Opera Guild and the Fulton County Public Schools Foundation. Sponsors hope to bring it to other schools in the district as well. This summer, a workshop will be held for teachers who might be interested in "conducting" a project themselves.

"The kids love the program," says Ms. Rainey. And because they take their enthusiasm home, she adds, parents, too, have been swept up in the excitement.

--jw

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