Summary of Professional Development Seminar on Arts Integration

On Feb 4th & 5th, Susan Riley presented a two-day professional development seminar for some of the teachers from the Upper Darby School District. In attendance were two teachers from each school as well as several principals, administrators and a few parents. Ms. Riley shared that she is currently based in Maryland, where she works with several Maryland School Districts including Montgomery and Anne Arundel, as well as School Districts in other states. One of the Maryland Districts has six Arts Integration pilot schools, several which are granted Kennedy Center Achievement awards. She described one of the Maryland schools as being completely immersed in Arts Integration.

We are all looking forward to the next round of professional development beginning in March.

These sessions were primarily arranged to provide training and development for Arts Integration and to demonstrate how it can be implemented into the UDSD curriculum design. Ms. Riley’s training highlighted some of the strengths of Arts Integration (AI) as a model by honing in on how it can complement an entire educational curriculum, and how it can reach children who might not respond as well to a more traditional approach of teaching. For example, she noted that art is a useful tool to help in areas where children are struggling. She discussed why and how AI utilizes both sides of the brain, and how this paves the path for future success in the work force that our students are expected to enter.

Ms. Riley particularly emphasized the fact that AI has been demonstrated to facilitate the new Common Core Curriculum that is going to be a mandatory part of the curriculum next year. The AI curriculum can actually work with Common Core requirements by allowing teachers to narrow the expected instruction down from the original design and then delve into subject areas deeper than expected.

The Agenda included a short video presentation called “Hard Fun”. There were several AI activities demonstrated as they play out in a classroom. There were many interviews with teachers, parents, students, principals and local representatives in AI districts all talking about the strong impact AI has had on their schools. One principal displayed graphs evidencing the increases in test scores across all grades as the direct result of implementing an AI curriculum. In addition, there were several touching stories about students who had struggled in standard course materials like reading or math and then found their voices through the art/ drama/music introduced by the AI curriculum. More stories were told by Ms. Riley about her experiences as a music teacher. The influence of art and drama was a game changer for these kids who might have otherwise floundered, but who now attend college.

Ms. Riley is scheduled to return for three additional two-day sessions with the same group of teachers to prepare them to provide training for their colleagues. It is an exciting time having these new programs introduced to our teachers to allow for art, music and movement not only continue in our classrooms but to flourish there as well. We are all looking forward to the next round of professional development beginning in March.

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