Teachers get creative

Reading Time: 3 minutes Teachers attending the fifth annual UVU Arts in Education conference learn creative tools for integrating music, theatre, dance and visual arts into Math, Science, Social Studies and Language Arts

Reading Time: 3 minutes
The fifth annual UVU Arts in Education Conference, “Cultivating the Creative Mind,” welcomed educators, specialists and administrators from throughout the state on Jan. 11 to the UVU Sorensen Student Center. This year’s conference theme, “Designing Collaborative Spaces,” focused on reviving creative thinking in elementary and secondary students though music, theatre, dance and visual arts education, even where it might be least expected – in a math or science lesson.


In multiple workshops on the second floor of the Sorensen Center, teachers and education majors were taught by other educators about ways they have implemented arts into lessons within their classrooms.


In an Elementary Drama focus workshop, teachers were taught to pantomime folktales to music and narraration.

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Workshop instructor Joe Rogan, previous theatre specialist at Glendale Middle School and Wasatch Elementary, explained that by incorporating music and movement to tell a story “theatre can be used as a tool to teach other subjects.”


This is also true for integrating dance into the curriculum at William Penn Elementary, where Jana Shumay said she teaches dance involving all core subjects including science, math and social studies.


According to Shumay, the integrated arts curriculum “is all about getting kids out of their seats and letting them learn in a different avenue.”


Her school’s program allows every student from kindergarten to sixth grade the opportunity to dance once a week for 40 minutes.


Through the program, she and other teachers at her school have seen a greater push for creating and independent thinking.


“They’re not just doing rote learning or copying their neighbor, but they’re trying to create and problem-solve,” Shumay said. “It helps them retain information. Retention is huge. When I integrate dance with science, even six months later they remember it a lot better than if a week later if they just sat there and heard a lecture.”


For Nancy Kertamus, a conference attendee and teacher at Daybreak Elementary in South Jordan, using the arts to teach core subjects has made a noticeable difference in average test scores compared to last year’s students.


“I had a 15-point jump in CRT scores in science because I put dance and music into my curriculum,” Kertamus said. She said the increase from 78 percent to 93 percent worked “because my kids were moving, they paid attention better.”


In Rogan’s concluding remarks of the Dramatizing Literature workshop, she said teaching art as an integrated subject is not only effective, but essential to its survival.


“If [in the school system], there are theatre teachers teaching just for the sake of theatre, eventually theatre will cease to exist in schools,” Rogan said.


Kertamus said this is partially due to people thinking art and music are goofy. She is saddened because this attitude causes them to remove the subjects.”


Incorporating more art and music activities didn’t take any additional funds. Kertamus simply had to get creative.


“I didn’t have to buy anything,” Kertamus said. “Everything I did was with supplies I already had, and I didn’t spend any of my own money, which is hard because you only get about $150,000 a year for 24 kids and it doesn’t go very far.”


Regardless of the challenges, Brianna Frederick, junior elementary education major, was excited to attend the conference to learn from other teachers in hopes to “change kids lives and so that they can understand that they can actually succeed, even if they are told they can’t.”


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