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Disney to open own teaching institute

UNITED STATES. Florida resort plans to set up master academy with state university. Jon Marcus reports. The primary US teachers' union and a Florida university have joined together to establish a master teacher institute in the new community of Celebration at Walt Disney World.

The institute, a combined project of the National Education Association and Stetson University, will be for educators what a teaching hospital is for doctors: a place where teachers from around the world can sharpen their skills and be exposed to best practices, says the NEA president Bob Chase.

Primary and secondary school teachers will be invited to spend three days at the Celebration Teaching Academy, observing instructional methods in the Celebration School next door.

Celebration itself is a community developed by the Walt Disney Company adjacent to the Walt Disney World resort. When finished, it will include 20,000 homes with state-of-the-art health, commercial, retail and recreational facilities and a public school for 1,000 students from Celebration and neighbouring towns.

One way of getting taxpayers to pay for the school was to promise that it would include an institute for teachers. In addition, the Celebration Teaching Academy - which is scheduled to open this autumn - will offer mid-career professional programmes for educators in co-operation with such partners as Johns Hopkins University, the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the University of Minnesota.

"Disney and Stetson wanted a teaching academy so that teachers from all over the US and around the world would have the chance to learn about the latest techniques and the latest ideas in pedagogy, and then see those ideas in practice in the school across the street," said Eugene Lubot, Stetson's provost.

The Celebration School will be organised into "neighbourhoods" instead of grades, mixing students of different ages and integrating all the disciplines in large rooms where independent and group study will take place simultaneously. Older students will help to teach younger students, and visitors from other schools around the world will be invited in to watch.

"It lends itself to people wandering in and out of the classrooms to observe, " said Dr Lubot.

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