Partnership lets teachers integrate art into curriculum

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 18, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
Teachers at four local schools will be integrating art into their curriculum this fall thanks to a partnership with the North Carolina Museum of Art.
Kannapolis Intermediate, Kannapolis Middle, Knox Middle and Southeast Middle will be participating in the museum’s Art of Collaboration program at the start of next academic year.
The program provides teachers with training to incorporate art into their instruction of math, science, English, social studies and visual arts.
Jill Taylor, the museum’s coordinator of school partnerships, said about six teachers from each school will attend a three-day immersion workshop held this summer.
“The first day we spend a lot of time just making sure the teachers are introduced to the museum and the collections, not just inside art, but outside as well because there are a lot of nature and science connections that can be made there,” she said. “Our goal is to get them to incorporate our collection into what they’re teaching in the classroom.”
Teachers will also get feedback on how to weave art into lesson planning.
“It’s really about using art to teach in a balanced way,” Taylor said. “That can be through making art, discussing art and writing about art.”
When teachers go back to their schools they share what they’ve learned with their colleagues and museum staff comes to them for three additional workshops throughout the year.
Taylor said during those sessions the teachers typically participate in an in-depth discussion about a work of art and talk about how to connect it to specific subject areas.
“We also have some kind of art activity that the teachers will do and usually that’s something they can take and adapt for their classroom,” she said.
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Since Art of Collaboration’s inception in 2007, the museum has partnered with more than 120 middle school teachers from 29 schools.
The yearlong partnership is funded by a grant throughout the Wells Fargo Foundation.
Taylor said those funds provide schools with technology dollars that can be used at their discretion to purchase things like iPads or an interactive white board.
The grant also pays for a field trip to the museum anytime during the year.
“It’s going to be neat for our students to actually get to travel to the museum,” Morris said. “I wonder how many of our kids have even been to an art museum.”
If there are any additional funds leftover after the trip to the museum, districts can use that money to take an additional field trip locally, Taylor said.
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Dr. Debra Morris, assistant superintendent for the Kannapolis City school system, said she decided to pursue the program because of the potential student impact.
“When I was a teacher at the high school my best friend was an art teacher and we were constantly partnering on projects for our classrooms, so I’m always a proponent of the arts,” she said. “And every time I read something lately it always talks about how much better students do academically if they are involved in the arts.
“We just think it’s going to be a great opportunity for our kids and our teachers, especially with the new common core (standards).”
Tina Mashburn, director of middle grades education for the Rowan-Salisbury School System, said brain research confirms that the adding art to instruction helps students strengthen critical thinking skills and improve overall academic success.
“Students will develop skills in cooperative decision-making, leadership, communication, and complex problem solving all while working with others,” she said. “These are the skills needed to be successful in the 21st century.”
Mashburn said all middle schools in the district had the opportunity to apply to be part of the program and that Knox and Southeast were selected by a committee.
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Taylor said the program provides a myriad of benefits to students.
“It fosters creativity, encouraging students to be innovative and making them literate on several levels,” she said.
The program is also a way to reach out to students who might learn differently.
“We see a lot of benefits, especially for English language learners because they are more comfortable talking about images versus something they have to read,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the program challenges gifted students.
“It forces them to go outside their comfort zone sometimes because there’s not always one correct answer, there are various opportunities for interpretation,” she said. “It causes them to think more critically about what they are learning and seeing.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.