- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 29, 2006

The students in Candice Marshall’s first-grade class danced to learn about temperatures. In another part of Kensington Parkwood Elementary School, Callie Chester’s fifth-graders looked at two famous paintings to come up with words for poems.

The two Kensington teachers used art to help their students understand difficult concepts as part of the Kennedy Center’s Changing Education Through the Arts (CETA) program. The program encourages teachers to incorporate visual and performing arts into the teaching of academic subjects.

“It brings the vocabulary to their level. The concepts become very clear to them,” Miss Marshall says.

Miss Marshall had her students raise their arms for hot temperatures and crouch down low for the cooler ones as she called out different degrees Fahrenheit. The dance took about 10 minutes, and the entire lesson on the thermometer 45 minutes.

“My kids won’t forget being a thermometer,” Miss Marshall says.

Mrs. Chester asked her students to come up with a list of descriptive words for van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” a list that included “mystical,” “swirly” and “magical.”

“Word choice is huge in poetry,” she says.

The CETA program provides a good base line for teaching the arts, Mrs. Chester says.

“You can learn it, and they give you everything you need to come back and use it,” she says.

Teachers from participating schools attend workshops taught by professional artists to learn how to carry out an arts-integrated instructional program. The teaching artists, who are trained in arts integration and have teaching experience, show school teachers ways to include the visual arts, music, dance and drama in their history, science, social studies and mathematics lessons.

“We’re giving them practical things they can use in their classroom the next day,” says Darrell Ayers, vice-president for education at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Northwest.

The CETA program costs the Kennedy Center about $250,000 to $300,000 a year, paid for through the U.S. Department of Education and several funds and foundations. Participating schools each pay a membership fee of $1,500 and for the cost of substitute teachers while teachers attend the workshops.

The Kennedy Center began offering the CETA program in 1999 at six District-area arts-focused and art magnet schools. In fall 2002, another six schools joined CETA, followed by six more in fall of 2005, including both arts and traditional schools from the District of Columbia, Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Montgomery and Prince George’s county public schools.

“When you get children at the youngest age, there is greater freedom to explore an art form in an uninhibited manner,” says Laura Shibles, principal at Lake Anne Elementary School, a Fairfax County public school located in Reston. “They love it, and they do fabulous, fabulous expressions of art.”

Lake Anne Elementary School is one of the first schools to participate in CETA. In addition to arts integration, the school offers an additional year of band and strings instruction, drama instruction once a week and dance instruction every other week, unlike other non-CETA elementary schools in the school district.

Using the arts helps students retain the facts they are asked to learn, says Pier Stock McGrath, CETA coordinator for Lake Anne Elementary School and a third-grade teacher.

“We get some nice thick books on what to teach. To make it meaningful and exciting to the students requires some creativity,” Mrs. McGrath says.

An arts-integrated approach increases student interest in the subjects being taught, says Martha Peterson, dance instructor at Jefferson-Houston School for the Arts & Academics, an arts education elementary school in Alexandria.

“We’re giving children a chance to understand that learning doesn’t have to be a bore by being able to express themselves and use their creative talents,” Ms. Peterson says.

Children have the opportunity to acquire knowledge in different and nontraditional ways, such as through movement, says Annette Shupe, principal of the school.

“We provide differentiated instruction and meet children at their level and help them understand the content in the way they learn best,” Mrs. Shupe says.

CETA is a three-level program taught to study groups of six to eight teachers and the school principal through a five-session, yearlong course at the Kennedy Center. The study groups are required to meet for at least two hours a month to design arts-integrated lessons that they will use in their classrooms.

“The teachers learn together in teams to help support each other and collaborate together to make sure they’re successful as they integrate the arts,” says Amy Duma, director of teacher-in-school programs at the Kennedy Center, including CETA. “Arts integration is a different way of teaching. It’s not something you do once in awhile. It’s really challenging teachers to look at the way they are teaching.”

At the introductory level of CETA, teachers learn ways to incorporate drama and music into the teaching of academic subjects. At each workshop, they learn how to do a particular art form and connect it to a subject. They write lesson plans integrating the art form that they will teach and later assess.

“We’re trying to show good examples of arts integration, natural links between the art form and the subject,” Ms. Duma says.

The intermediate level is similar to the first workshop series but is focused on dance and the visual arts. At the advanced level, teachers can choose a course that focuses on one art form to integrate with a particular subject. They can opt to have arts coaches, who are the teaching artists, come to the school to provide workshops and evaluate them on their skills in arts integration.

At the workshops, the teaching artists model an activity in ways it could be taught in the classroom, Ms. Duma says.

“The workshop leader teaches the teachers as if they were students,” she says.

After the teachers do the activity, the workshop leader asks them to become teachers again and reflect on how they can use the activity in the classroom and connect it to the curriculum, Ms. Duma says.

“We’re trying to change the way teachers teach, giving them new skills and processes,” Mr. Ayers says.

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