A Musical Math Teacher Inspires Kids with Technology...
FamilyPC Magazine, Cristine Santo (p.156)
Arthur Fuller started out his adult life as a jazz drummer - not a surprising career choice for someone who grew up surrounded by music at home and at church. These days, though, Fuller’s marching to a different beat -- both as a techno-savvy math teacher at the Middlebrook School in Wilton, Connecticut, and as the director of a number of recreational programs for inner-city children in nearby Stamford, Connecticut.
His core philosophy in both capacities? Children will embrace technology if you make it meaningful to them, and once they can use technology to share their ideas, they’ll see no limits to what they can accomplish.
So how do you make technology meaningful? Fuller has lots of ideas, on a number of different fronts. Recently, for instance, Fuller invited a number of prominent professionals to talk to students in an after-school program about their paths to success.
"The students were captivated by these stories," said Fuller. After the talks, Fuller taught the students to use Microsoft Publisher and asked them to create a newsletter about the speakers. Suddenly, students who had previously had very little interest in writing were enthusiastically pecking away at the keyboard. Plus, many developed a new sense of the career options available to them.
Fuller has also found that music is a great vehicle for getting kids hooked on technology. After listening to some of Fuller’s original compositions online, some students are now working on their own compositions, and plan to put their pieces online at Fuller’s Web site, www.littlejunior.org.
Another time, Fuller used money to pique student interest in technology. In his middle school math class, he gave students a virtual budget of $3,000 and told them to go online and "buy" the best computer possible for the money. Not only did they need to compare deals at different online computer stores, but they had to write a persuasive essay to support their decision. (Yes, he read English essays in Math class...) "Because the assignment involved real-life skills - spending money wisely - the students took it seriously," Fuller said.
In another Math project, Fuller had students research any topic of interest to them for three weeks, and then chart those aspects of the topic that could be expressed in numbers using Microsoft Works.
Fuller also recently helped students at one recreational center put their voices on a CD - an experience that truly thrilled them. "Before, they had no idea how the whole process happened," said Fuller. "After they did it themselves, you could see the lights going on in their eyes about the things they could do."
Now that’s music to Fuller’s ears.
Regional Article Feature
African Rhythms Rule At Middlebrook Stamford students join Wilton classes to learn about music, art
by Tim Silloway | The Wilton Bulletin | March 4, 1999
The crowd exploded with enthusiasm as the band warmed up the audience. Congas and cowbells pounded out African rhythms and sixth graders from Middlebrook’s team 6A as well as Stamford’s Turn of River School took the stage, danced and clapped to the beat.
Renowned jazz musician Randy Weston couldn’t make it to the Middlebrook auditorium last Friday, but the kids didn’t seem to mind. Culminating the more than a month of interaction between 118 Middlebrookers and about 89 of Stamford’s Turn of River School students was a two-day program where the kids visited each other’s schools and shared in learning about African art, music and history.
“It was a very successful day.” Math teacher Art Fuller said between running from classroom to classroom and helping musicians carry in their gear. “I think the kids really enjoyed it and got something out of it,” he said. Sharing Diversity Through The Arts supported by a grant from the Cooperative Educational Services, was the program that brought the two schools together. Mr. Fuller was - as put by Principal Julia Harris - “instrumental” in organizing the event.
“I predict the children and staff will never forget this educational experience on many different levels,” said Ms. Harris.
“What an awesome experience to pique the interest that all children seem to have in music,” said Nancy Hasenauer, Middlebrook dean.
And the kids?
I think they liked it. They were excited about the workshops and seemed to really get involved,” Mr. Fuller said. Besides learning about African cultures, the students seemed to fulfill the other intention of the program and made some out-of-town friends. During the performance, a Turn of River student borrowed this reporter’s pen and a piece of paper from his notepad to swap addresses with a Middlebrooker.
It was a different experience for us,” sixth grader Kelly Straw said. Matt Johnson said,” It was good way of showing us what it’s like in other towns.” His classmate, John Murphy agreed. “It’s cool.”
John added that the main difference he noticed between the schools were that all the kids at the Turn of River School seemed to be in the same clique, whereas here, kids tend to hang out in groups. “The crowds crossed,” he said. “It was like a big group of friends.”
Pen pals, poems and shoes
For an icebreaker, the two schools’students exchanged letters, poems and pictures of their shoes before meeting in Stamford on Thursday. The students then had workshops on African art, music, and cultures with area experts.
Stamford painter Iyaba Ibo Mandingo taught the kids about African-influenced art. Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng discussed his passion, African music, and taught the kids about various percussion instruments.
Ralph Williams, also a percussionist who makes instruments, taught the students about rhythm relating to poetry. Another percussionist, Neil Clarke, joined the men on stage for a performance and explained some of the differences between the drums used.
Music teacher John Rhodes thinks it is good to “bring something into the school, kids are not going to see if we don’t bring it in.” “Obeng is good with kids,” he added. Anything for the kids “I’ll do anything for the kids,” Obeng said, remembering as a child being told it was the adults’ responsibility to “ save culture” for the next generation.
“Obeng was impressed with how much the students had learned about his homeland, Gnawa, and African cultures.
Mr. Fuller was one of Obeng’s students at Wesleyan University. Ejay Clark, one of the Turn of River School teachers, called the program “a lot of fun. It’s always great to meet new people, and it’s fun to bring music into what otherwise might be an uncomfortable
situation... it relaxes everyone.”
Mr. Fuller said Mr. Weston couldn’t make the show due to a taxi service error, but he has agreed to come back and perform for the kids in April.
Art Fuller: Math Teacher and more
by Tim Silloway | The Wilton Bulletin | November 12, 1998
People watching “Good Morning America” on Monday, Oct. 19, were privy to view what many sixth grade Middlebrook students bear witness to five days a week. His name is Art Fuller, and he’s a teacher, mentor, musician, Web site designer, and generally dedicated to helping children grow through learning.
“I love working with kids, that’s what it comes down to,” Mr. Fuller said in between teaching classes, helping students find change, locating parents, and answering other general questions. He stopped to “high five” one pupil on his way back to the classroom. Mr. Fuller has taught at Middlebrook for three years. He’s a math teacher, but he has also taught science and currently hosts the Middlebrook Web Page Club, an after-school program that teaches kids how to use computers. “This is a fun way of teaching kids about computers,” he said smiling, while watching a videotape of students in costumes he shot at school the day before Halloween.
Principal Julia Harris, was happy to speak about Mr. Fuller. Last Thursday she said with a smile, “I spent my evening previewing the first part of a video he made at the school... His talents and infectious laughter are a gift to this community.”
Dean Nancy Hasenauer was quick to add, “He’s an awesome presence at the school.” Dean Dana Pierce agreed. “I think he brings so much spirit and energy to the school... He’s just good to be around.”
The video will be edited, with the help of students. Mr. Fuller and the class will translate the video to the computer, where it will be part of a Middlebrook Web site that is in the making. The process takes a while, Mr. Fuller said, but he’s working on it anyway.
Teacher knows computers.
Founder of FullerMusic, (www.fullermusic.org), he’s been spending his “free time” working with kids at various community centers in his native city of Stamford. FullerMusic, started in March 1998, was primarily designed to demonstrate to kids how creative arts can be applied to computers. Mr. Fuller became involved with The Oak Street Center, Inc., The Urban League of Southwestern Connecticut’s Downtown Oasis, The Lathon Wider Center’s Discovery Program, and Rogers Family Resource Center’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.
At each center, Mr. Fuller brings his technological and musical abilities to young people, and involves them in projects like making their own compact discs, computer visual design, as well as dance and jazz workshops.
And he builds Web sites.
Oak Street on-line The Web site that produced Mr. Fuller’s Good Morning America” fame is www.oakstreetcenter.org. The Web site is an awesome display of the center’s activities and the children’s creations.
“A lot of people don’t realize it’s just a small center,” Mr. Fuller said with modesty, despite the attention he and the center have received. The Web site was built entirely by Mr. Fuller and has links to several other Web sites he’s built.
The Oak Street site features pictures of African masks and watercolors that children made with assistance from Stamford artist Iyaba Ibo Mandingo. One of the links in the site is to the artist’s Web page, www.iyaba.com.
“It was really interesting to see some of the talents in these young students - I mean these are elementary students!” Mr. Fuller said with excitement while surfing through Web pages and stopping on various professional quality pictures of students’ watercolors. The goal of putting students work on the Web is to “show kids how to use the Internet in an educational and positive way,” he said.
The Oak Street Center has also been mentioned in Connecticut Family Magazine and The Advocate.
Wiltonians to the podium
In case that wasn’t enough, Mr. Fuller is spear-heading another Oak Street Center project. Meeting Wednesday through Saturday, Mr. Fuller is working with 12 Stamford youths from November to June in a career enrichment series.
The program is designed to give minority students a head start at joining the professional career world. It is not just a good time and free ride; students must maintain a certain grade point average to stay in the program and do a certain amount of standardized test driven mathematics before they can start the ”fun stuff.”
The students will learn how to apply mathematics to professional recording, marketing, compact disc design, music videos and film. Also, they will learn how to design and market their Internet businesses. Students in this program will also have guest instructors from a variety of professions visit them in the spring. Several of them are Wiltonians.
“Some Wilton parents have graciously decided to come down and talk about their professions. What they’re doing is great for the kids,” Mr. Fuller said with a smile.
Mr. Fuller wants more Wilton professionals to share their expertise with the class. If interested, inter-ested persons may e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
He produces CDs
Mr. Fuller pulled from his briefcase a stack of kids' photographs taken at the Lathon Wider Center, and gave The Bulletin a copy of the CD the kids made. The jacket and CD itself are covered with pictures of students. Mr. Fuller explained that the kids had to scan their own photos and “do the math” to get their picture on the CD. That was the learning experience.
Unfortunately, the CD has no music on it yet because of the copywrighting process, but it will have three folk tales set to music on it when complete. Another CD he passed on does have music on it. “Conversation, Structure & Rhythm” is the name of the album. The music is free form, modern jazz, featuring Mr. Fuller on percussion.
The self produced CD is part of a project Mr. Fuller is working on to encourage creativity and literacy among students. Each song, written by Mr. Fuller, has a description of its origin, and Mr. Fuller wants to present the combo to schools so the music can be played and the message can be discussed. The music can be heard on the web at... www.fullermusic.net
This work would not have been possible without the contributions of Chris Lightcap, David Shields, Aaron Stewart, Iyaba Ibo Mandingo, Larry Terry, Scott Kessel, Matt Reinzi, Martin Obeng, The Oak Street Center, Rogers School, Stamford Urban League, Lathon Wider Center, CTE Community Action Agency.