Arts integrated: Why we chose A+

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 9, 2018

Editor’s note: This article is one in a series about Rowan-Salisbury Schools becoming a renewal district. All were written by RSS staff and teachers.

By Lea Anne Thomas

Rowan-Salisbury Schools

This school year, China Grove Elementary School will open as an A+ School. We join 60 other schools in the state with this designation.

A+ Schools use the arts to transform education by integrating arts into other subject areas and other subject areas into the arts. Our process to become an A+ School took more than a year and is just the beginning of our school transformation.

China Grove Elementary was one of the original restart schools in Rowan County. We chose arts integration because of what it would provide students and how it brought important elements to the forefront.

The arts are universal; they exist in every civilization and culture from the beginning of time. How can we educate our students without teaching them about the arts? How can our students go through life without music or dance or art? We would argue you cannot.

The arts require students to be critical thinkers, to be actively engaged, to be collaborative and to be creative. These are skills that employers look for in job candidates. Our students live in a world where there are many solutions to a problem and working with others is embedded in almost any situation or task.

The arts will give our students exposure to experiences and activities they would not otherwise have. For instance, all our students will receive instruction in dance each week this school year, and students will take field trips to experience the arts. We hope to add other opportunities such as learning to play the piano in a piano lab.

Over the past year and a half, our teachers have visited at least four A+ Schools, we have presented arts-integrated lessons to each other and our school leadership teams have discussed the benefits and roadblocks we could potentially face.

We implemented an elective program for students in grades two through five where they can choose something they are interested in to learn more about, with many of the offerings being in the arts realm.

In July, almost all our certified staff members went to a weeklong professional development meeting to help us learn how to integrate arts across grade levels and disciplines. We learned a lot about curriculum and the arts, but we learned even more about each other.

We are excited about the beginning of this school year and our journey.

What does arts integration really mean? I can tell you that it doesn’t mean that our students will spend all day with coloring books or dancing. It does mean that our students will use crayons, markers, paints and colored pencils to create products that show their understanding of a reading or math standard.

Students may create a movement set to show a historical event, they may use a piece of music to describe the mood or theme of a story, or they might even use clay to represent the plant life cycle.

Students will learn to critique their own work as well as how to offer and accept feedback. Ultimately, we hope and believe this will bring more joy and excitement back into the school building.

As all the schools in our system begin their own journey, teachers will spend time looking at their school’s strengths and weaknesses. They will brainstorm and research ways to meet learner needs and to develop their passions.

At China Grove Elementary, we know that what we do this next school year is just the beginning. We have much more to learn and accomplish in the arts integration arena. We are most appreciative of the opportunity we have to transform our school, and our goal is to provide each of our students an opportunity to learn, grow, be creative and enjoy the arts.

“There are no mistakes, just happy accidents.” – Bob Ross

For more information about A+ Schools, visit

Lea Anne Thomas is principal of China Grove Elementary School.