"I love art because I can relax. Drawing and creating things helps me release feelings. I use art as a way of expressing myself in different ways," said Fletcher Elementary School fourth-grader Hunter Gruber. "It's important to let kids do art because everyone's good at something and maybe some kids are good in math or spelling but others might be really good at art and they want to use their talents in school. To have extra time to do art and music is really good for us."
Hunter was talking about an enrichment opportunity that Jamestown elementary school students are experiencing this year. Art teacher Jan Gould and music teacher Mary Crandall are teaching eight-week "artists-in-residence" enrichment sessions at each elementary school this year to all students, in addition to students on curriculum alignment at specific grade levels and allowing the two teachers to delve into a culture, like Native American or Egyptian, and connecting it to music and art. Because of an alignment in elementary school schedules, the district is able to offer the enrichment program to all kindergarten through fourth-grade students in all elementary schools.
Ms. Gould just finished teaching at Fletcher Elementary School and is headed next to Lincoln School. At each school she has planned different enrichment art activities based on grade level. Kindergarten students are creating simple puppets in dogs, cats and birds and "shape" people. First grade is learning more about origami including creating an origami barking dog and a decorative box. Second grade is discovering Aboriginal art and creating "dream" paintings. Third grade is doing an Egyptian unit including a Hieroglyphics project using their name, fourth grade is learning about African culture and creating African masks. Mrs. Gould uses books, technology and research to let students understand more about the individual topics. As the students get older, more emphasis is placed on learning about the specific culture so that students can understand why they create the type of art that they do.
Fletcher Elementary School second-grader Mackenzie Robbins created her “dream” painting during Jan Gould’s art enrichment class.
"Art has played a role in every great civilization across history," said Ms. Gould. "In the regular art classes they are exposed to a lot of American art, but this enrichment time gives us an opportunity to expose them to other cultures, which is important in a global economy. Students who see, for example, that the African culture creates masks learn the reasons, but it is also relatable to them as they are familiar with Halloween masks. The more that students study art and music, studies show the better they do in school."
Mrs. Crandall has just completed an enrichment unit at Bush School and is moving to Love School. She is conducting music units with kindergarten through fourth grades. She uses age-appropriate text depending on the grade level. As she travels to the different elementary schools, she will base the final improvisational piece on a poem, story or character that coincides with classroom curriculum.
For example, at Bush School, her third- and fourth-grade enrichment included a Native American twist, which corresponds to what the students are learning about in social studies in the classroom. Students learned the basics of what improvisation is, how to create rhythms, that improvisation isn't just for music - you can improvise in writing and other disciplines - and culminated in a Native American harvest song where students played drums, xylophones and sticks while singing.
"Mrs. Crandall's class was so much fun," said Bush Elementary School third-grader Hannah Grey. "Because it was improvisation, we made-up our own patterns in music and worked as a team to create a final song. Music helps me express myself, and when I go to music class it makes me have a better day because it makes me feel great."
"Having music is important. Music is fluency. Music is math. Music is social studies," said Mrs. Crandall. "Maybe a child isn't a strong reader, but by singing a song or working out a rhythm we can relate it to a book or a poem. By figuring out the rhythm of a song, they use adding, subtracting, multiplication and dividing. I find that some of the students that are challenged in the classroom, often shine in music. By giving this extra infusion of music and art, we are helping all students by giving them the opportunity to use their right side of the brain, which has been shown to positively affect the left side analytical side. And students all love the arts; it's learning in a fun way."