Twenty-three students at Horizon Honors High School performed rehearsed pieces for their peers, staff and parents this week, all historical icons from the Harlem Renaissance.

Impersonating notable authors, poets and musicians like Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway and Benny Carter, the students at Horizon Community Learning Center in Ahwatukee Foothills weren’t part of the drama club or performing for theater, rather doing just a typical research project for their English course.

“It’s an incredible amount of research and writing,” said English teacher Christi Britt. “It’s about understanding the various perspectives from different times.”

Over two days, students dressed up in period time, researched their chosen person’s biography, studied their accent and even mannerisms for the project. Some of the students, who play instruments, also performed their pieces together as the famous Chick Webb Orchestra to end the presentation.

“Performance has always been part of Horizon’s values,” Britt said. “I just had to have them do this.”

With a full implementation of the new Common Core State Standards next school year, Britt said that her students are already getting the experience of using primary sources. For English and literacy shifts called by the new standards, building a transferable vocabulary and writing from evidence are woven into her class project.

In her fifth year of assigning this kind of performance project to her students, Britt said the research, performances and overall result is bigger every year.

“It’s the study of an entire culture that comes full circle. I’m so proud of them,” she said.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.

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