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Art and Culture Center of Hollywood’s Distance Learning Program

 Nancy Mariani, mascot Stanley C. Panther and Ray DeSouza.

Panther's educational hockey and skate representatives demonstrate the "Art of Ice Skating" to Broward County students. From left to right, Nancy Mariani, mascot Stanley C. Panther and Ray DeSouza. Photo courtesy of the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood. 

By Lisa Turano Wojcik

 School is not always a regular day of “the three R’s.” Occasionally, Broward public school students get a real treat in the form of a hands-on interactive lesson in the arts. The lessons are so lively and fun that while students are busy painting and building their creations, they don’t even realize they are learning science or math at the same time. Or if they do, they really enjoy it. The Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, in partnership with the Broward County School Board, offers a free, creative, arts-based Integrated Distance Learning Program for public school students. The teleconferencing sessions allow students to interact in real-time with teachers and artists without leaving their classrooms. ACCH delivers its program through the Broward Education Communication Network (BECON).  These lively classes utilize various themes and presentations in the visual and performing arts to complement the core curriculum areas of math, language arts, history, and cultural studies for grades K through 12, including exceptional education (ESE) classes.

The Art and Culture Center of Hollywood is a highly respected non-profit organization under the auspices of the City of Hollywood. The Center is located in the historic Kagey mansion at 1650 Harrison Street in downtown Hollywood. The building houses contemporary gallery spaces as well as a student gallery for youth and adult arts education. Next door the Center’s Arts School hosts afternoon, evening and summer arts education programs for the community. Since 2005, the Center has been designated as one of eight Major Cultural Institutions in Broward County. ACCH promotes contemporary, innovative artist exhibitions and provides high-quality music, theater, and visual arts programming, implements outreach endeavors, and provides diverse cultural services to the local community.  ACCH also provides excellent arts programming for schools and other non-profits. Integrated Arts Distance Learning is funded by the Broward Cultural Council, Helen Ingham Foundation, Target, City of Hollywood, and Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. 

Susan Rakes, Assistant Director of the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, oversees its education department. As the arts were progressively reduced and eliminated from many Broward County schools due to budget constraints, Rakes noticed that there was a need for unique art lessons to fill that gap. She worked with BECON to establish the ACCH Distance Learning Program.

 Instructor Traci Petersen demonstrates how to create a traditional sugar skull mask to Broward County students. Photo courtesy o

Instructor Traci Petersen demonstrates how to create a traditional sugar skull mask to Broward County students. Photo courtesy of the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood.

BECON TV is the Broward Education Communications Network, owned and operated by the School Board of Broward County. Well-known for its own distance learning programs, BECON’s Education Broadcast System (EBS) broadcasts 2-way, interactive videoconferencing between classrooms and special guests and experts. BECON broadcasts are delivered to classrooms throughout Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach County.  

Rakes says, “The Center’s interactive arts program not only provides students with a creative outlet, but helps in comprehending and reinforcing math, science, and language arts concepts in a fun way.” She explains that students who receive arts education learn important life skills including cooperation, critical thinking, and creative problem solving. Hands-on learning activities are a proven, positive way to reinforce academic content skills in a way that can be more easily mastered. In November, students made colorful “tie-dyed” turkey decorations from household supplies. While enjoying the physical activity, they experienced first-hand complex vocabulary words and science concepts of absorption, adhesion, and cohesion. It wasn’t a tedious lab exercise, instead, it was a fun and creative way to appreciate the concepts. Rakes adds, “The lessons also serve as a great resource for teachers that may feel uncomfortable in their own ability to offer integrated art lessons in their classrooms.” The education staff at ACCH has designed their Distance Learning Program lessons to meet Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, so all are compatible with Broward County School Board curricula.

Some Broward schools have also had to reduce sports and performing arts offerings. Rakes has expanded the program in recent years, from solely visual arts, to include music, drama, story telling, and the art of sports. She enlisted help from the Florida Panthers last December, to create the “Skate, Skate, Skate in the Sunshine State,” a lesson which combines sports, language arts, math, and science. It was a high energy lesson thanks to the wonderful staff of the Panthers Hockey team, ice skate program, and Stanley C. Panther. It taught students the “how to” skills of ice skating, vocabulary words and rhyming, and how ice skating relates to math and science concepts of angles, radii, and friction. It was such a huge hit, that ACCH and the Panthers will be presenting another lesson on May 1, 2015. 

Over the past 9 years of operation, the ACCH Distance Learning Program has been very well-attended and popular. It was so successful, Rakes said, “When we first started this program, we didn’t know that we would positively impact the lives of over 10,000 students in schools throughout Broward County.”

ACCH, along with experienced teachers, artists, and experts in a variety of fields, produces all of the curriculum components. The live-feed lessons are performed by teaching artists on site at the center. Lessons are totally interactive. According to Rakes, students can see and hear the online instructor, and ask questions. They can also hear questions and responses from students in other participating schools. And the instructor can respond to any of the students in the classrooms that are signed on. To participate, teachers must register for lessons by contacting BECON. These classes are only accessible, at present, to Broward County public school classrooms through BECON. However, when funding can be secured, Rakes hopes to expand the program into a web-based platform. This will enable charter, private, and home schools to connect to the live broadcasts. In the meantime, years of archived printed lesson plans are available online at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood’s website for teachers, home school parents, and anyone to download and perform for themselves.

A recent Distance Learning Program lesson “Discovering Geometry through Tradition: Calavera Sugar Skulls,” covered the cultural studies topic of the native Mexican tradition of Día de los Muertos. Another covered an environmental science issue, with the “Endangered Species Mobile.” Some interesting lessons scheduled now through May include “Gyroscopic Sculpture” and “3-D Kinetic Sculptures: Pop-Up Valentines,” in which students will create three-dimensional art.  For more information about Distance Learning programming, call 954. 921. 3274. Or go to


Broward County Cultural Division
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