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Woodland looking for other arts integration opportunities

Students and parents visit a visual arts creation table during Woodland Elementary School’s recent family arts integration night. The evening included other elements that could support the core curriculum, including music and laptop computer activities.

   The success of using dance to teach science has Woodland Elementary School Principal Kim Johnson thinking of other ways to integrate the arts into curriculum instruction.

   In addition to dance, the range of arts integration includes music, puppetry, storytelling and visual arts – all designed to supplement classroom learning.

   “Dance to teach science was a good beginning, even a great start, but implementing arts integration is a gradual thing and we’re in it for the long haul,” Johnson said. “Arts integration helps kids learn in different ways. It isn’t everything, it’s an additional thing, part of our complete instruction.”

   Professional dancer and choreographer Tom Evert of Cleveland worked with children in kindergarten through third grade in January. Students learned dances that demonstrated the planets’ rotation around the sun, water condensation and evaporation and other elements of science and weather.

   The study concluded with a dance show that drew a standing-room-only crowd of parents and grandparents to the Woodland gym.

   “Dancing helped the kids to express themselves. And our teachers worked with Mr. Evert so that his dance instruction could support their classroom work,” Johnson said.

   “The dance show was more than just dancing. Children could tell their parents how they learned through dance. The children were excited and so were the parents.”

   Mansfield City Schools is linked with Renaissance Performing Arts and the Mansfield Art Center as Kennedy Center Partners in Education. Evert, who has been involved in arts education programs in schools for 31 years, was sponsored through the Kennedy Center’s Ohio-based partnership.

   Other national teaching artists have visited local schools and conducted teacher workshops at the Renaissance in recent years.

   Chelsie Taylor Thompson, director of operations at the Renaissance Theatre, said Woodland’s introduction of arts integration “absolutely is what we have been working toward.”

   She said local teachers who attended an arts integration workshop in Madison, Wisconsin, in June came back enthused about its potential.

   “As more teachers see what arts integration is all about, it energizes them and demonstrates the different ways that kids really learn,” Thompson said. “It is gratifying to see arts integration coming to fruition. Seeing it in action is awesome.”

   Johnson agreed that teachers are enthused, noting that they often text her even at night about something they saw or read, or had an idea, about arts in education.

   Woodland hosted a recent family arts integration night to demonstrate how the arts enhance learning.

   “There was a lot of interaction among teachers, parents and students. They enjoyed activities together. That’s what it’s all about – building partnerships,” Johnson said.

   Thanks to a grant from the Martha Jennings Holden Foundation, Evert is back at Woodland two days a week through May, again connecting dance to their classroom instruction.

   “You know the kids are connected when they are excited about Mr. Evert’s return and can’t wait to see him again,” Johnson said.

   As Woodland explores the possible integration of music or visual arts in the learning process next year, Johnson said she and her staff hope to interact with local artists.

   “I don’t know yet if we have anyone in the community who could provide the arts instruction, yet teach in a way that compliments core subjects,” she said.

   Thompson at the Renaissance is ready to help.

   “This is something we are working on,” she said. “Mansfield has so many talented artists. We are working on creating a teaching track so we can bring in local artists, help them develop lesson plans and train them to go into classrooms.

   “We see lots of opportunities for local artists in classrooms.”

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