Pilot arts-based curriculum proving successful at elementary school

Students still learn the core skills such as reading and writing

A careful blending of fine arts and academic instruction is proving popular at a local school.

Edwin S. Richards Elementary School has hosted a fine arts-based curriculum pilot project since 2011, and according to principal Jan Minty, “the kids are having fun, learning to cooperate, self-regulate, and building self esteem and confidence.”

The children in the two classes (a Grade 2/3 and Grade 5/6) are still absorbing the core educational curriculum, she noted, but this type of artistic instruction gives students the choice between using a pen and paper, or showcasing their knowledge of the material through movement.

But the teacher offers this choice based on an “elegant fit,” she said, which is an innovation in teaching core curriculum concepts in partnership with the fine arts to allow children to creatively demonstrate their learning and understanding, she said.

Minty reports the parents are “thrilled” with how their children are learning, and the parent advisory council is supporting the endeavour, “but it’s still growing. I think it’s an exciting way for kids and teachers to learn.”

For example, the Grade 5 class was learning geometry, and decided to put the lesson into movement, said Minty. A similar method was used to teach students about weather.

Minty spells off the teachers occasionally to give them time to learn new methods of including artistic aspects into academics.

Next year, the plan is to introduce the fine arts inclusion concept across the whole school either in a science or social studies block, said Minty.

It’s an idea finding more favour, and Minty was quick to point out that it’s not just a trend that will fall by the wayside, as Simon Fraser University has begun offering a diploma in integrated learning.

One of the program’s key pillars is reaching out to the community, exemplified by the involvement of professional dance teacher Lee Kwidzinski and the creation of the intergenerational dance project.