Art Matters in the Bering Strait SD
Art Matters in the Bering Strait School District By Kim Sweeny
Instruction in and through the arts produces positive academic and social effects. The essential thinking tools of recognizing and developing patterns, creating mental representations, carefully observing the world, and creating symbolic representations are all realized through arts instruction, especially when it is integrated with core curriculum. (Rabkin & Redmond, 2004). Dance, visual arts, music, film, and theater activities support analytical skills while increasing student motivation to stay in school. Art is an especially effective way for teachers to get to know their students and for students to come to know themselves. Creating art is a personal experience as students draw upon their own resources to produce results to express their views and ideas. Integrating the arts can lead them into a much deeper involvement than just reading text to get an answer.
Shishmaref FEA students
who created a film portrait of revered teacher John Sinnok
By teaching through the arts, teachers create conditions that are ideal for learning. The arts are not just affective and expressive; they are deeply cognitive. The following are some of the benefits found in schools where arts are integrated into core curriculum (Rabkin & Redmond, 2004):
- Students have a greater emotional investment in their classes
- Students work more diligently and learn from each other
- Cooperative learning groups turn classrooms into learning communities
- Parents become more involved
- Teachers collaborate more
- Learning in all subjects becomes attainable through the arts
- Curriculum becomes more authentic, hands-on and project based
- Assessment is more thoughtful and varied
- Teachers’ expectations of their students rise.
Not only do the arts appeal to multiple intelligences and help students learn to appreciate differences, but they also teach students the habits of mind that will help them learn discipline and find success in whatever they do. Today’s youth will need to be able to use their knowledge of the past and the present to ride the wave of change into the future. We know that creative thinkers, armed with inventiveness and flexibility, are especially able to reassemble learning in new configurations to address change in a positive way. Bering Strait School District (BSSD), as a member of AAEC, enhances the development of student creativity, a critical 21st century skill, by supporting learning in and through the arts. This year we have witnessed many artful opportunities and successes for staff and students. In January, Alaskan Katie Basile and our own Patrick Cutler worked with Future Educators of Alaska (FEA) students and advisors in Koyuk, Unalakleet, and Shishmaref to create short film portraits honoring local teachers. These films were shown at the statewide FEA gathering in Fairbanks and at the May BSSD Board meeting. Katie went on in a popular Working Weekend, to instruct BSSD staff in digital postcards, imovies, stop motion photography and other skills that can be used alone or in content rich teaching.In March, Darien Southall, a student from Unalakleet , did an outstanding job at the Poetry Out Loud state competition. Thanks to the staff at Shishmaref School, there was a successful Science and Arts Fair in early March and selected art pieces from that show were mailed to Juneau to be showcased at the State Capitol. Eleven BSSD sites will have Artist in Schools residencies for the 2012-13 school year. Spring Art surveys were sent to principals, staff and students so that we can use comments and suggestions to steer the next BSSD arts efforts.
Cover of the New BSSD Visual Arts Curriculum
A mural created by Gambell students during
2011 summer school with the arts
In May, the BSSD board adopted the new K-12 BSSD Visual Arts Curriculum – an important accomplishment after two years of development work and review. This document, available on paper and on the district website, will be helpful for staff wanting to learn about developmentally appropriate visual arts instruction and the “how to” for adding visual arts to their teaching repertoire. To honor local art and artists, the new curriculum is filled with samples of Bering Sea Art. BSSD again supported teachers to attend the Summer’s Basic Arts and Special Topics Institutes offered by Alaska Arts Education Consortium.
This coming summer we will partner with Nome Schools and Northwest Arctic Borough Schools to host the Nome Basic Institute to offer outstanding staff development in the arts. John Sinnok, a master teacher and carver, retired from his position at Shishmaref School, which he held for over 40 years. John was selected as an AAEC Champion of the Arts and was also selected for a Governor’s Award for arts Education. We thank John for all his years of dedication to our students. Our district will continue partnering with the Alaska State Council on the Arts for an additional two years with a “New Visions” grant. This means we will have continued support for human, material and financial resources to help us expand the arts into all our schools, across the curriculum. Much of our progress in the past three years has been linked to this ASCA grant and to the work of many BSSD teachers, students and administrators who added the arts through stand-alone and content-integrated arts lessons. Through well-designed arts experiences, in concert with other district programs, BSSD attempts to reach and teach the whole student. We expect the arts to help our youth explore and express their understanding of what is important and beautiful in the world and learn to appreciate that art matters.
Savoonga students created these tiles as part of their Artist In Schools experience that became part of a school mural.
If you want more information about what is happening with the New Visions grant or the BSSD arts program, contact Kim Sweeny at email@example.com or Ben Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org . References Rabkin, N., & Redmond, R. (2004). Putting the arts in the picture: Reforming education in the 21st century. Chicago: Columbia College.