Eastport Pilots Schoolwide Arts Integration
In partnership with the administration of AOS 77 in Eastport, and with the encouragement of the Maine Department of Education, MAAE has been piloting the state’s first model of schoolwide and classroom teacher-based arts integration in theater and dance. Designed by MAAE to be sustainable at schools in Maine’s many remote, low-income communities, the model piloted in Eastport offers a way for Maine schools to respond to the growing research showing the benefits of arts integrated instruction for student learning and engagement. The project began last year at the Eastport Elementary School, grades Pre-k through 8. This year MAAE has been expanding its pilot to grades 9-12 at Eastport’s Shead High School. Funding has come from the Maine Community Foundation’s Washington County Fund and the Davis Family Foundation.
Unlike the models adopted by large urban schools in other states, which rely more extensively on the local presence of theater and dance artists, the MAAE model provides classroom teachers themselves with flexible models of individual and group student creation in theater and movement and gives the teachers the training and professional support to adapt those activities throughout their curriculum. The Maine DOE is treating the pilot as a case study, whose results the Department can help us disseminate statewide.
At a demonstration at Eastport Elementary School last May by the EES teachers and students of every grade level parents and community members got to see exciting examples of the results at the elementary and middle school level. Those included grade 1/2 showing through movement the life cycle of plants, grade 5/6 enacting its exploration of missing scenes in a Harry Potter novel, and grade 7/8 performing the powerful dance they had created showing the apocalyptic impact of climate change. In the demonstration’s finale the 7/8 class invited the other students – and the adults too! – to join them in forming a group shape based on positive and negative space. One by one the students – even pre k four-year olds! – added themselves eagerly into the shape, and several adults joined in as well. It was quite a day! See below for photos. To see the write-up in the local newspaper, The Quoddy Tides, click here.
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The weaving of art-making strategies into the teaching of non-arts content areas of ELA, math, science and social studies has been shown to boost student engagement and student achievement. Low income and special needs students have been found to be helped more by arts-integrated classroom instruction in ELA and math than by traditional remedial programs. Arts integration is most effective when it is a school-wide practice, and the classroom teachers themselves are trained to integrate the arts, and can use them also to respond to unexpected opportunities and changing classroom needs, rather than relying only on pre-scheduled visits from teaching artists. For rural schools in low income and remote communities, the classroom teacher-centered model is also more practical and sustainable.