Bethel Park teacher advising for Carnegie International exhibit

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As the 2013 Carnegie International prepares to open, a Bethel Park High School English teacher is doing what he can to ensure local students get the most out of the famed exhibition.

Charles Youngs is one of eight local teachers who were selected to serve on the Carnegie International's 2013 Teacher Advisory Board for the Carnegie Museum of Art. The group collaborates with the museum's education department and the exhibition's curators to develop educational programming for school visits to the exhibition.

The board began meeting in April to help formulate focus topics and guiding questions to ask the students during school visits to the International, which opens the first weekend in October. Board members also worked with museum staff to develop pre- and post-visit learning experiences for the students as well as activities for online visits and in the galleries themselves.

Board members learned about the 35 artists who will be featured and the 19 countries from which they hail and viewed their current works to get an idea of their style. In addition, one of the curators spent a morning with the board members answering questions and guiding them through a slide show of the artists.

Mr. Youngs last served in this capacity in 2008, but he has been involved with the International since 2004. During that exhibition, he worked with the education department to develop a discussion thread between teachers and students about their visits to the exhibition. He also worked with museum staff to create a narrative writing and art tour as part of the museum's efforts to expand approaches to art to other disciplines.

Mr. Youngs incorporates art into his English/Language Arts curriculum by annually organizing field trips to the museum during which his students learn to read paintings and develop visual thinking skills. In addition, he encourages his students to use art for inspiration. For example, a painting may inspire a setting for a story, an object might evoke a poem, or a character may be created through a portrait.

He said he hopes the International, which he described as cutting edge, will be an opening for students to start to appreciate art and become familiar with today's art.

"It's the art of today, and it's not necessarily always what we expect art to be," he said. "That creates an opening right there for students' imagination and inspiration."

The exhibition soon will have a presence in the high school, Mr. Youngs said. He has been invited to pull together an interdisciplinary team of teachers to go to the museum for a day to find out more about the exhibition, review the guiding questions that were developed by the board, and then plan lessons in connection to it.

Currently, teachers from the chemistry, art, writing, health education, humanities and consumer science departments plan to visit the exhibition with their students, and then work on activities related to their specific disciplines.

"The synergy of it is exciting to imagine that we might consider a few of the same works from completely different avenues and have the kids realizing those connections," he said.

Mr. Youngs said his involvement with the board is turning out to be a wonderful opportunity from which he hopes students will benefit in many ways.

"There's that magic that happens when you're faced with master works," he said. "Letting the students know that in their backyard, there is this place where we have these treasures -- that's an important learning piece as well."

The International, which will run through March 16, is the oldest exhibition of international contemporary art in North America and the second oldest in the world. The 2013 exhibition is the 56th.

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Shannon M. Nass, freelance writer:


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