Back to School. Time to Connect.
Over the past few weeks, Valley schools have opened their doors to welcome students back to classrooms. Hot Arizona summers can mean an overabundance of screen time for youth. Last year, students also attended school, at least part of the year, online. This year, it is time to reconnect to each other, and what better way to do that than through the arts?
For more than 25 years, Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation has provided students in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley Unified School Districts the unique opportunity to learn, be inspired, and create with professional teaching artists in a program titled Cultural Connections Through the Arts. Using an approach to teaching called arts integration, artists collaborate with educators to use the arts to teach congruently to academic and arts standards.
Cultural Connections is in high demand by teachers because artist residencies support the holistic success of students by targeting academics, self-confidence, empathy, and critical thinking through the arts. Students enjoy learning through the arts because it allows them to engage with the curriculum through fun and creative lessons that activate a range of learning modalities (visual, auditory, reading/writing, kinesthetic). Artist residencies and education kits are designed with educators to ensure residency experiences meet classroom needs.
Composer in the Classroom
In this residency, everyone is a composer! Exploring the intersection of literacy and music, students discover how sound can convey meaning and are empowered to tell stories through songs. Working with a professional musician, students demonstrate understanding of core curriculum concepts by translating classroom text into a unique piece of music.
Poetry: Personal to Performance
Professional poetry and spoken word artists engage students in writing while supporting positive self-image and reinforcing a strong classroom community. Through reflective journal writing and references to contemporary writers and lyricists, students connect with the power of the written word and the relevance of poetry to their lives. By the end of each session, students share their completed poems with classmates.
Teachers can also spark students’ curiosity in curriculum through self-guided education kits. Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation’s education kits include Arizona Academic Standards-based lesson plans and all supplies necessary to creatively engage young minds in academic subjects. Lessons employ student-centered approaches to learning that build 21st century skills, including critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration.
This teacher-led comprehensive curriculum and kit of teaching resources is designed to immerse students in the memoir of Holocaust survivor Oskar Knoblauch, A Boy’s Story, A Man’s Memory: Surviving the Holocaust 1933–1945. This emotional coming-of-age story recounts Oskar and his family’s struggle to escape the Nazis’ rise to power in Germany by fleeing to Poland, only to there be subjugated to the Kraków ghetto and forced labor camps. As students read Oskar’s story of survival, they connect with and are inspired by relevant themes of hope, respect, and perseverance. Each student receives a journal to keep that includes chapter questions, critical thinking arts activities, and reflective writing prompts guiding students to recognize their inner strength. Hope Chest also contains a teacher’s guide of engaging lesson plans, a classroom set of books, maps, images, music files, and hands-on objects to explore. Lessons support academic standards, Holocaust education, and social and emotional learning competencies.
As parents and teachers continue to navigate the evolving landscape of education, what remains constant is the need to provide students with pathways to make relevant meaning of content, connect with and develop empathy for others, and allow for creative expression. Arts-integration is a model approach for developing a student-centered, experiential learning environment. This year, whether students learn in-person or virtually, we look forward to an academic year filled with artful discoveries, laughter, and learning.