The text below from Allison was read at the public School Board meeting on 11/13 and describes a good example of arts integration.
Allison A. McConnell
School Board Meeting Statement
I want to preface my statement tonight by saying that I have always been and will always be an advocate for the full-retention of our related arts teachers. I have personally participated in an Arts Integration program as an 8th Grade science teacher in the School District of Philadelphia. I am sharing my experience with you tonight to illustrate just one example of what Arts Integration can be. Last spring, the Schuylkill Center contracted with Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership (PAEP) to obtain an “artist-in-residence” to come to our school to integrate art and science. The artist who came to our school teaches at the University of the Arts in addition to working with PAEP. These professionals are trained in arts integration, with “ArtsEdge” (from the Kennedy Center model) being one of their resources. Our specialist came to the school and worked with our full-time Graphic Arts teacher and the classroom teachers twice a week to integrate 3rd, 6th, and 8th Grade science with art to create banner murals to beautify the Manayunk Canal and the Canal Street area, with an emphasis on the ecosystem of the canal.
For my class’s lesson, the graphic arts teacher, artist-in-residence, and I walked the students to the Manayunk Canal. While there, the students found a quiet spot and used their sketchbooks to create interpretations of various aspects of the canal that they felt might need beautification. We then collected water samples and brought them back to the science lab to test them for acidity levels, pollution, bacteria, etc. In total, we performed 6 tests on the water samples. The students then made slides of their samples to examine under microscopes. We later interpreted and graphed our data. From there, we had the students create the molecular structure of the organisms & H2O using various mediums on paper, then transferred them to a computer program. They were able to superimpose the children’s work onto huge banners that were hung on buildings during a ceremony on Canal Street.
To me, this was a perfect example of integrating science with art, which was extremely beneficial to the students and the staff involved. The PAEP program is essentially “on the job” training for Arts Integration. This organization has a very successful track record throughout Southeastern PA, including Delaware County, with research posted on their website to prove this claim. The biggest bonus for me as a classroom teacher has been the exposure to the proper implementation of Arts Integration; again, involving a full-time art teacher, full-time math/science teacher, and the PAEP teaching artist. As a teacher, having this arts integration specialist present in my school offered a wonderful collaboration between the subject area teachers for an interlocking of the content for both art and science. Co-teaching and collaboration of this sort are not part of our training in college, and it truly is an “art” to co-teach effectively.
The example I have given just brushes upon the benefits of a program such as this. The Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership has returned to my school for a 3-year program, funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Ed and is matched by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. PAEP focuses on numerous genres of art (music, theater, dance, visual arts, etc.) and they promote making the core subjects of math, reading, science, and social studies come alive through the arts. I also advocate for this group because they have built-in assessment tools to track student achievement over time in order to ensure student growth.
In addition to offering trained Arts Integration specialists on-site, they provide numerous professional development opportunities. For instance, PAEP develops and produces arts-based conferences for individual school districts. Topics and experiential workshops include, but are not limited to: arts integration; program management; co-teaching and collaboration training; assessment development; literacy and the arts; the common core and the arts; and working with special needs and culturally diverse populations.
If implemented properly, these experiences can create more “buy-in” from teachers, as they will feel more supported, and the overall Arts Integration model can flourish. I have been in communication with Mr. McGarry over the past couple of months regarding the PAEP program, and we have set a date to observe two schools that have implemented a co-teaching, Arts Integration model. Mr. DeVlieger, Mr. McGarry and I will also be meeting with the Arts Link coordinator, the Associate Director of Education and the principal of one of these schools to get feedback about the program along with a Q and A session. It is my request to the Board and the Administration; please give this program your fullest consideration. Bringing in the PAEP program would be investing in our teachers and Arts Integration for the long-term. Again, this program is not intended to be a replacement of the current related arts staff, but would be a resource for our teachers, so that our children may experience true Arts Integration.