Arts fellowship program teaches arts integration

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 202 views 

There’s a scene in the popular 1995 movie Mr. Holland’s Opus starring Richard Dreyfuss where the long-time music teacher voices his displeasure about the arts program being cut from his high school’s budget.

The line goes something like this: “Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want. Sooner or later, these kids aren't going to have anything to read or write about.”

Appreciating how the arts enrich lives — and how they can be integrated into most other curriculum disciplines is a concept that is far from being cut in Northwest Arkansas. If anything, local arts organizations and schools are working hand-in-hand to ensure that teachers are well-equipped to integrate the arts into their classroom.

The Walton Arts Center, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the University of Arkansas Center for Children and Youth launched the ARTeacher Fellowship program in June that focuses on helping high school English and social studies teachers integrate the arts more fluidly and effectively throughout their curriculum in a way that is interesting for students but also meets Common Core Standards.

The standards are a set of learning expectations for students K-12 in English language arts and math. They provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students should learn in those areas. Each state that adopts the standards is required to develop a plan that demonstrates how the statewide curriculum will incorporate the standards and how that will be measured through standardized testing.

The pilot program is for one year, said Christian Goering, director of the Center for Children and Youth and associate professor of English education at the UA. The plan is that future programs will be for a longer period of time. The 10 teachers in the pilot program participated in an intense workshop last summer and throughout the school year they come together for eight workshops that focus on various aspects of integrating the arts into their classroom.

Some of the workshops are led by national leaders in the field of arts integration. The fellows are able to discuss ideas among themselves and with the experts.

“It includes both the visual and performing arts,” Goering said, adding that the teachers will have the opportunity to incorporate what they learn into the classroom, but also bring their students to experience the arts in person by visiting the Walton Arts Center and Crystal Bridges.

The idea is to teach the teachers in the program, but also for those teachers to share their ideas with colleagues.

Laura Goodwin, Walton Arts Center’s vice president for learning and engagement, notes, “work the fellows do this year, learning how to effectively include the arts in core curriculum including English and Social Studies, will serve them throughout their teaching careers. They will develop content, methods and innovative lessons that will be relevant for years.”

Patricia Relph, arts learning specialist at the Walton Arts Center, was on hand for one of the recent workshops.

“Our organization wants to invest in learning that is indepth,” she said. “This teaches an approach that allows students to understand (the arts) and engage in a creative process.”

All of the partners have been pleased with the program.

“Working with these teachers and seeing how willing and eager they are to engage their students in different ways is inspirational,” said Anne Kraybill, school programs manager at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. “(Arts integration) can feel uncomfortable and foreign to many, but this group is embracing new ways of teaching and developing a more reflective practice.”

As any educator would say, there is a difference between teaching and learning. Program coordinators say the fellowship is valuable, but more importantly so do the teachers, who in this case, are the students.

Katy Moore teaches 11th-grade English and advanced placement language composition at Har-Ber High School in Springdale. She said that using the arts in her classroom helps teach students to think about their curriculum differently.

“It empowers you to approach something that you didn’t think you could do before,” she said.

For example, if students are able to learn how to evaluate an artwork despite never having had the experience before, they will be more willing to try other new ideas, she said.

Wayne Levering teaches ESL American government and American history at Heritage High School in Rogers.

“It’s right up my alley of the way I teach,” he said of the fellowship program.

Levering said that most world history curriculum is taught based on culture whereas American history is usually taught from a time perspective, which is more linear. The timeline perspective is usually strung together with military accomplishments, he said.

By incorporating the arts, he is able to teach more about changes in American culture. Teaching from the cultural perspective gives students a glimpse into historical lives.

“It shows the kids that they are not unique, that they have a connection,” he said.
On Nov. 28, the fellows met at Crystal Bridges to learn from Rika Burnham, co-author of “Teaching in the Art Museum: Interpretation as Experience” and head of education at The Frick Collection in New York.

“If they can have a powerful experience, they can do something for their students,” Burnham said. “The burden of the standards can press out creativity. This is an effort to still let them teach (the standards), but also be creative.”

This year’s ARTeacher Fellows:
• Brandon S Flammang teaches English and social studies at Springdale A.L.E. (Alternative Learning Environment)
• Bryant Davis teaches social studies at Bentonville High School
• Elizabeth Spicer teaches English at Rogers High School
• John O’Berski  teaches English at Lincoln High School
• Joshua Vest teaches English at Bentonville High School
• Katy Buehrer teaches English at Hackett High School
• Katy Moore teaches English at Har-Ber High School
• Kenya I. Windel teaches English at Deer High School
• Scott Lampkin teaches social studies at Fayetteville High School
• Wayne Levering teaches social studies at Heritage High School