When the final bell rings on the last day of school, students and teachers alike are ready for a break. For most kids, that means snow cones and bathing suits. For teachers, it kicks off several days of mandatory planning and professional development. This year, many dedicated teachers voluntarily gave up an extra day, their first official day of summer break, to learn about arts integration.
The “Arts Integration Full Circle” workshop was developed as a unique collaborative partnership between the Council on Culture & Arts, Opening Nights at FSU, Focus 5, Inc., Leon County Schools and the Florida Alliance for Arts Education. It was sponsored by the Florida Center for Partnerships for Arts Integrated Teaching (PAInT) at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM).
Leon County was one of six counties in the state that committed to providing this kind of instruction as part of the “PAInT Across Florida” initiative. Leading the way was Emily Smith, a national teaching artist from Focus 5, Inc., an organization offering arts integration training and consulting. Smith travels to public schools and universities around the country to lead workshops and residencies and she was impressed with our local teachers.
“They were very engaged and they had a lot to discuss which is always a good indicator that they understand what we’re talking about and they’re interested in doing more and continuing the conversation,” said Smith.
The workshop was specifically designed for K-8th grade non-arts educators and participants were encouraged to jump right in to a sample activity. They assembled into small groups to work cooperatively. The goal was to embody their students, synthesize new information about Westward Expansion and demonstrate their understanding from the perspective of women suffragists, settlers and Native Americans.
Each group was challenged to create a tableau, a living picture capturing a moment in time. This theatrical strategy requires participatory learning, high order thinking and deep comprehension. The teachers used no props, costumes, scenery or dialog apart from six words to help communicate their essential message.
Jennifer Koon was struck by “the simplicity of it all. It was fantastic and very powerful.” Koon is the director of curriculum and instruction for K-8 grade at the School of Arts and Sciences on Thomasville Road. She recognizes that, to some teachers, arts integration may seem daunting but this workshop showed it doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.
Smith emphasized this point throughout the remainder of the six-hour workshop. “One of the biggest things that can intimidate teachers is when they feel they need to put on a play or a musical or an art show. That’s not what we’re looking for,”she explained.
“Eventually our students should be able to produce something but this is more about our approach to teaching and how we’re engaging students in the learning by letting them solve problems collaboratively through exploration and inquiry. That’s what arts integration is aiming for.”
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