Look at our Neighbors

How exciting is it to read stories about your neighbors using the arts to close the achievement gap in the Mississippi Delta? There was a great article in The Bolivar Commercial about how the BPAC (a fellow Partner in Education at the Kennedy Center) is working with their local schools to bring the arts to classrooms in their county. What a fun read!

From our Friends at The Bolivar Commercial (click here for the article on their site):

The West Bolivar School District, in partnership with the Bologna Performing Arts Center, recently completed this year’s arts-centered education initiative facilitated through the Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education Program.

Throughout the 2012-2013 school year, national and local teaching artists have presented arts integration-based workshops and teaching demonstrations to district staff and students.

On March 18, elementary and middle school faculty attended a “Moving through Math” workshop, led by Sherice Ortman, teaching artist and instructional coach for the Waterloo, Iowa Community School District.

The following day, Ortman led teaching demonstrations in the classrooms in order to reinforce the concepts.

This workshop was the last in a series that focused on the arts to enrich the instruction of other subject areas and increase student achievement.

Arts integration workshops are now being planned for the 2013-2014 school year.

“Teachers and students have been very receptive to the workshops,” said Whitney Cummins, arts education coordinator at the BPAC. “Anytime you can merge the arts with regular subjects you are going to engage the students.

“When the lessons are fun for kids they become very engaged.”

The partnership came to fruition early last year under the direction of BPAC Executive Director Laura Howell and WBSD Curriculum Director Dr. Sherry Shepard.

“Everyone has really enjoyed this type of learning — teachers and the students,” said Shepard. “The kids are very participatory and we know when they are engaged the learning increases.

“We hope this really helps — using the arts to improve student achievement in reading, language and math.”

The district monitors program effectiveness through teacher surveys and in-class observations to make sure implementation continues successfully.

There will also be several follow-up training sessions before next year’s workshops to help keep teachers primed.

Cummins added that they hope to increase the number of workshops next year and to include more national and local teaching artists.

Previous workshops presented during the year included a program introduction by Althea Jerome and Kathryn Lewis, teaching artists from the Mississippi Arts Commission, along with special presentations by Jodie Engle and Kim Whitt, staff members at the MAC.

Later in the school year, Paige Whelan, a San Francisco-based teaching artist, presented “Acting Right: Drama as a Classroom Management Strategy” to district teachers.

The BPAC and West Bolivar School District were one of 12 teams nationwide selected in 2012 to become members of the prestigious Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Selected because of their demonstrated commitment to the improvements of education in and through the arts, the partnership team participates in collaborative efforts to provide professional development opportunities in the arts for educators.

The program is based on the belief that teachers’ professional learning is an essential component of any effort designed to increase the artistic literacy of young people.

The Kennedy Center’s has been providing teacher training since its establishment in 1976.

Read more: The Bolivar Commercial – Arts improves student achievement