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Danville Independent Schools

Artist in residence Holser

In Sarah Wall’s eighth grade social studies classroom, artist-in-residence Dane Holser, who has been providing drama workshops and educational performances for Kentucky schools for several years, talked to the students about how to get into character. 

“John W. Bate Middle School has begun the first steps of a year-long arts integration program,” said Jane Dewey, Director of Arts Education for Danville Independent Schools. “The initiative pairs teaching artists with classroom teachers to integrate the visual and performing arts into academic classrooms. Mrs. Wall has jumped right in with her eighth grade social studies students.” 

They learned theater techniques to showcase understanding of the Articles of Confederation and the role of government in the United States, Dewey said.

“This co-teaching project matched Kentucky Arts Council Guest Teaching Artist Dane Holser with Mrs. Wall and her students, and this part of the initiative was funded in part through the Teaching Arts Together grant program,” she said. “The Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, supports this artist residency with state tax dollars and federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.”

That day, Holser was teaching the students how to complete a project that involved selecting a topic and deciding how to present the information: creating a scene, newscast, talk show, tweet war, debate or other format. 

For example, one group of students went into the hallway after they broke into their groups to practice their recorded newscast about leaked tweets from large and small states about state representation. 

Dewey said Danville teachers have done training in arts integration teaching strategies and have used them in their classrooms. The district has also worked with teaching artists in all the schools. She said JWBMS made some academic and scheduling changes this year, which laid a foundation for teachers integrating the arts into their classrooms. 

“At one point, Mrs. Wall had been a part of a project-based learning curriculum at Bate,” Dewey said. “She enjoyed that and saw the benefits of that for students, and she saw the parallels between project based learning and arts integration. Both offer students an experiential hands-on learning approach. Also, in addition to being a theater teaching artist, Dane Hosler is a history buff, so Mrs. Wall's primary content area was in his wheelhouse.”

She said, “The visual and performing arts offer students the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning opportunities. Students explore their own and other cultures and personal identities. Learning in and through the visual and performing arts give students the chance to empathize with others and to reflect on the human condition. The arts compel students to communicate their understanding of complex subjects through a wide variety of media. Students build a variety of communication skills that have real-world application.”

The initiative includes the following that JWBMS hopes to put in place this year: Grade level field trips for seventh and eighth grade, one to the Norton Center for the Arts and one to the Arts Center of the Bluegrass, two to three additional artist-in-residencies and sharing experiences of the residencies to teachers not directly involved "to create a learning climate where sustainability of arts integration practices is possible."

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