Thursday, March 04, 1999

Wyoming arts classes lauded

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WYOMING — In a national arts education study released Wednesday by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Wyoming schools were among eight districts profiled for arts programs.

        Wyoming was singled out as an example of how school leadership and community consensus contribute to the success of arts education.

        The two-year study, “Gaining The Arts Advantage: Lessons From School Districts That Value Arts Education,” looked at the success strategies of school districts in creating and sustaining strong arts education programs.

        “The community and the schools have realized for a long time that the arts are a large factor in developing the whole child,” said Superintendent Ted Knapke.

        Case study districts were visited by research teams that included school superintendents and art education researchers.

        It was the success of Wyoming's visual arts students in regional and national competitions that first brought the district to the attention of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and the Arts Education Partner ship.

        Exposure to the arts starts early in the Wyoming district.

        All students in kindergarten to eighth grade participate in music and the visual arts, while a majority of students in grades nine to 12 elect to participate in the arts program.

        “One of the things I think is key is a commitment to every child being exposed to art and music,” said Alison Youkilis, district art department chair.

        “It is important to parents that students have an exposure to fine arts and to music,” Mrs. Youkilis said. “Because it was a priority in the district, it became a priority in the schools.”

        The district offers a strings program in the fourth grade. Every child plays an instrument in the fifth grade and can take choral music in seventh grade.

        “At the high school, students must take one year — two semesters — of fine arts, music or visual arts,” Mrs. Youkilis said. “Often our kids take five or six credits.”

        More than 90 percent of students go on to college, and most of them have been active in the arts. Football players have been known to march with the band at halftime in their football uniforms.

        “They believe it is OK and wonderful to play an instrument and be on the track team. That is one of the things that makes this little district do well in so many areas; we don't group kids,” Mrs. Youkilis said.

        Students say their involvement with arts courses has helped them in other areas.

        Francie Patterson, 18, a senior, says her involvement in graphics design courses and working with metals have made her a well-rounded student.

        “It's like an outlet for me. The school day is so rigorous. It's so neat to start out with basic materials and make such neat things,” she said. “It has taught me a lot of patience, and I'm more of a creative person because of it,” she said.

        The re-emergence of creativity into the culture may have something to do with a renewed interest in arts education.

        “The neatest thing I feel that has happened in the wave of education is everybody is realizing that — going into the 21st century — what we are doing is more creative,” Mrs. Youkilis said.


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