The study of humanities calls for a focus on culture, inquiry and expression. As such, the Humanities Department at SVAHS consists of the Art, Library and Spanish programs. Students explore culture and expression through their studies in Art and Spanish, and the Library program supports their inquiry in those and all other programs at SVAHS, plus any topics students choose to pursue for personal self-fulfillment. The philosophy of the Humanities department is to provide the encouragement, support and creative freedom to students as they learn about the richness of human culture and their place in the world.
The library program reflects the standards of the American Association of School Librarians, promoting inquiry, inclusion, collaboration, curation, exploration and engagement to help students think, create, share and grow. Through the library program, students gain effective skills in research, media literacy and digital citizenship; and improved literacy through targeted reading and writing strategies, all within the context of constantly changing learning environments. In collaboration with content teachers, the librarian also helps plan and deliver lessons and assists with special projects.
Technology Unit - Grade 9
This unit is taught to all ninth graders and focuses on developing skills in media literacy, online safety, search strategies and evaluating sources. Student learning in this unit is guided by two essential questions:
How can technology enhance/improve my life and work?
How can I be a responsible and safe user of technology and media?
Combined with the teaching of other technology skills in academic and career technical programs, this unit satisfies Strand Six of the Massachusetts Vocational Technical Education Frameworks.
Grades 9 - 12
Students will learn literacy, research, employability, media evaluation and technology skills from the librarian on a regular basis in academic and career technical programs, and in preparing for post-secondary pursuits. Students are also encouraged to independently select texts of interest to them.
Spanish at SVAHS is taught with an emphasis on learning how to communicate in the language. From the very beginning, Spanish is the language of instruction. Class material is made comprehensible through visual context clues, gestures, and some English translation, so that even students who are new to Spanish will find the class accessible. Students begin acquiring the language through listening and reading; two forms of input that are part of every lesson, every day. After many hours of listening and reading, students begin to speak in short sentences.
This approach is similar to how young children learn their first language. They listen, while the adults around them talk and make gestures. After some time, the child understands what is happening, even though they can’t speak yet. (This happens when learning a second language too!) If the child is lucky enough to have someone read to them, they begin to see the words on paper. Finally, they start speaking. Studies show that this is how all language is acquired.
In addition to language learning, students in the program gain knowledge about the cultures of countries where Spanish is spoken. Cultural connections with communities around the world are an ongoing part of each course
Spanish 1 is an introduction to basic conversational Spanish, and is offered to Sophomores and Juniors. Students will learn how to describe themselves and other people, talk about their daily activities, and narrate the events of a story. Students will know the colors, numbers, days of the week, how to tell time, etc. Class activities include creating stories, acting them out, drawing, interviewing classmates, reading a short novel, playing games, and listening to a LOT of Spanish.
Spanish 2 is offered for Juniors and Seniors. This class re-enforces some of the basic interpersonal communication skills learned in Spanish 1. Conversation about students’ daily life and interests continues to be a focus, as they acquire more of the language. Students will study agriculture and farming in Latin America, Latin American foods, and the relation between food and health. The later part of the year focuses on another short novel, this time written in the past tense.
Spanish 3 is offered to Seniors who have already completed Spanish 2 or who have already developed proficiency in Spanish because it is their home language. Spanish 3 continues to develop students’ basic interpersonal communication skills, but also explores the history and culture of Spanish speaking countries. The course takes an in-depth look at the history and culture of Puerto Rico and Cuba. Students are expected to read novels and news articles, and engage in discussion about them.
Heritage Spanish is offered for students who already have a background in the language from their home environment. The class is for students who are bilingual, but not necessarily biliterate. Heritage Spanish focuses on developing literacy through activities and assignments comparable to those of a language arts class. Students learn reading strategies, develop reading habits, write essays on various topics, and work to develop critical thinking skills.
Courses are aligned with standards for language learning that are defined by the American Council for Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Diversified class activities and assessments will reflect different learning styles, with a fair amount of classroom movement, visual learning, drawing, acting, and competitive games.
In addition to language learning, the Spanish classroom is a place where students will gain knowledge and understanding of the cultures in 21 countries where Spanish is the official language (or widely spoken). Cultural connections with communities around the world, as well as the Latino community here in Western Massachusetts, are an ongoing part of each course.
Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School's art curriculum is aligned to the Massachusetts Core Arts Standards with a focus on creating, presenting, responding, and connecting. The art courses follow the Visual Arts discipline.
Art courses are required for 9th and 10th grade while in 12th grade they can take art as an elective. Instruction in these courses are created with artistic literacy in mind. Students are offered opportunities in artistic investigation and experimentation with materials, techniques, and concepts. While delving into their own creativity, students learn how to convey meaning and communicate through their art works.
9th Grade Art
This project-based course that develops a student's visual art skills. Students will develop art skills based on the elements of art, principles of design and composition, and typography.
10th Grade Art
Art Two is a more advanced study of art for the 10th grade. Students work in an expanded range of two-dimensional and three-dimensional media. There will be concentration in areas of more advanced drawing, watercolor, acrylic painting, sculpture, as well as work in the artist’s own personal sketchbook.
12th Grade Art Electives
Each elective will be a trimester long and students can sign up for the whole year or a trimester at a time.
Trimester 1: Drawing
Drawing focuses on rendering with a variety of mediums. The curriculum stresses visual perception, composition and creative problem-solving. This class requires a sketchbook.
Trimester 2: Painting
Painting includes acrylic and watercolor painting techniques. Value, composition, color theory and studio maintenance are emphasized. This class requires a sketchbook.
Trimester 3: Sculpture
This course develops basic skills in the creation of 3-D forms in a variety of mediums. This course is designed to develop higher level thinking and technical skills, and aesthetics. This class requires a sketchbook.