Opera Philadelphia strives to develop programs which are student-centered and that meet each student's individual learning styles while offering the opportunity to process the knowledge gained into an integrated whole.
The art and music activities of the Sounds of Learning™ program offer students interactive participation which begets ownership of the learning process. This program is multi-layered and infuses many concrete, fun-filled activities for bringing joy into the classroom.
The Sounds of Learning™ program was developed in 1991 for use by the Opera by Dr. Dennis Creedon. It is based upon the work of Drs. Susan L. Lytle and Morton Botel of the University of Pennsylvania, who have collaborated and written The Pennsylvania Framework for Reading, Writing and Talking Across the Curriculum. This study is designed for implementation statewide and focuses on the thematic method of teaching reading, writing, and oral communication.
"Thematic units emphasize significant concepts that come from the subject matter of several disciplines. They can be used to unify the curriculum . . Instead of having a period of time devoted to each subject, one overarching concept integrates the pieces into more meaningful wholes. Planning to teach thematic units involves the articulation of a variety of texts - printed, oral, and visual . . Students explore the theme by reading, writing, talking, drawing, enacting, and constructing displays." (P. 134, 1990)
The Sounds of Learning™ program is further empowered through the research of Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University. His concepts are found in his text: Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligence.
"It is the principal assumption of this study that individuals are not all alike in their cognitive potentials and their intellectual styles and that education can be more properly carried out if it is tailored to the abilities and the needs of the particular individuals involved." (P. 385, 1983)
The Sounds of Learning™ program incorporates many activities which meet the needs of the seven different intelligences as defined by Gardner. The Linguistic intelligence is addressed in the reading and writing components of the program. The Logical-Mathematical intelligence is used in the math lessons and in the measurements that are required for the artistic and social studies activities. The Musical intelligence focuses on learning music related to the opera. The Spatial intelligence is utilized in the artistic activities. The Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence is utilized in the re-enactment or acting of the libretto as a play. The Interpersonal intelligence is utilized in the group discussions and cooperative learning activities. The Intrapersonal intelligence is augmented when the children see all learning in a new light and themselves in relation to it.
The power of the Sounds of Learning™ program is that it is grounded in the integration and synthesis of the learning which takes place during the classroom presentation and the live performance of the staged opera. By blending artistic activities with curricular goals, we enhance both product and process retention. Thus, the arts are primary to learning and not peripheral.
Norman Rice, writing in Richard Basset's text, The Open Eye in Learning: The Role of Art In General Education, sees the role of the arts in education as primary.
"If some direct experience in one of the arts that is deep enough to have meaning is supported by intellectual studies of the kind that will transmute personal experiences into philosophical idea, then education will have performed a significant task, and the arts will have more than a peripheral value." (P. 106, 1969)