Thursday, June 17, 2004

Arts melded into learning

By Natalie Morales
Enquirer Contributor

Teachers (clockwise from bottom) Susan Prather, Jody Hart, Cynthia Spahn and Cathy Wolff do creative improvisation as Heather Jones (background left) and Cheryl Figgins watch. They were learning to integrate arts in their lessons.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/PATRICK REDDY
Educators are learning this week how to teach art through dance, and poetry rhythms through coffee-can drums.

These are among the techniques being presented all week to more than 100 teachers from across the region at Beechwood Elementary School in Fort Mitchell. The annual Arts Connections summer workshop shows teachers how to combine the arts with other academic areas, such as language arts and math. The workshop is broken down into art, drama, dance and music sessions.

During a dance session, Cynthia Spahn, a kindergarten through sixth-grade physical education teacher at Beechwood Elementary, learned about putting movement together with other art forms.

Spahn and her group created a dance using colored scarves to represent the Vincent Van Gogh painting Starry Night. The group also was given a list of words from which to choose to develop the emotion they wanted to show in their dance.

Linda Reiff, the dance-session presenter, said she was working to improve the groups' improvisational skills.

Teachers can try similar exercises with students in class. Doing so helps children learn by stimulating their creativity, said Lauren Hess, Arts Connections project manager. Also, the arts provide students with more variety in the way information is presented, which can making learning easier. Some students, for example, are visual learners; they might comprehend a story better if parts of it are acted out.

A group of teachers attending a music session listened to a book about Langston Hughes' rhythm theories, drew pictures of what they thought different rhythms looked like and pasted the designs on coffee cans that they used as drums.

The activity reinforced the importance of recognizing students' creativity and individuality, said Jennifer Gibbons, a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teacher at Treasure House in Covington.

Each school participating in the workshop will receive $1,500 from CET, the workshop's sponsor, to fund classroom presentations by professional artists or student trips to arts events, Hess said.

The workshop also offers a session on writing effective grant proposals.

"It's very helpful because we don't get much professional development in grant writing," said Norita Alexander, an art teacher at New Haven Elementary in Union.

Alexander said she would like to use grants to bring artists to the classroom or to buy supplies.


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