Teachers Take to the Stage for Arts Integration
Some 75 or so DMPS teachers took center stage at the Des Moines Civic Center on Monday afternoon, but they weren’t exactly playing to a packed house. In fact, the seats were empty and the teachers were working; staying after school, in effect, for some professional development built around the concept of arts integration throughout a broad educational curriculum.
The Civic Center was the venue for the four-hour session because the expansive stage/backstage area allowed plenty of room for movement, one of the four elements (dance, drama, visual, music) central to the notion that there is an art to every area of instruction, including science. Also, Des Moines Performing Arts and the Kennedy Center are partners with the district in this effort.
Sarah Dougherty, the Turnaround Arts Program Coordinator for DMPS, and Fine & Performing Arts Coordinator Ryan Rowley direct the PD sequence which is aimed at teachers from beyond just the five schools that make up the district’s federal Turnaround Arts cohort.
“Teachers are here from schools all around the district,” said Rowley. “Grades K-8 are represented. Arts strategies can work across grade levels and content areas.”
According to Dougherty, “Arts integration is becoming the Swiss Army knife of teaching strategy. It’s even effective when a language barrier is present (DMPS has a large and growing contingent of English Language Learner, or ELL, students) because so much of art expresses a universal language.”
Long gone is the image of students chained to their desks quietly dulling their sharpened pencils on worksheets. Accordingly, the registrants for yesterday’s workshop – each of whom freely chose the subject as part of their continuing education – warmed up for their lessons with a series of movements called a “brain dance” designed to get the blood pumping before they broke out into small groups around tables and started collaborating.
Later this week Dougherty will shift gears. Instead of preaching to a choir of teachers eager to absorb the latest educational gospel that movement’s not just for PE anymore she’ll be at the Iowa statehouse trying to enlighten legislators as to the wisdom that STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is smart but STEAM (A is for Art) is more powerful – and hot!