In addition to the two major art programs, our classroom teachers are encouraged to use styles of art within their lessons when possible. Many of our teachers were trained in the picture/image writing technique from the University of New Hampshire. With this training, and provided materials, the classroom curriculum advocates the importance of visualization during the process of writing. Students learn to brainstorm their thoughts to describe a visual image using more sophisticated words. This method has shown positive outcome, easily detected through the students’ poetry and prose work. Teachers sometimes play music while the students work in order to set the mood of the classroom, while enhancing brain activity. One of our main strategies this year is to incorporate the musical and visual art lessons into our math and language arts programs in order to further aid the students in testing well on the MCAS. Children learn to measure a line to the nearest inch in math; this is parallel to children learning to measure a line segment to produce an art piece in a visual arts class. This transference of a learned skill applied to a more desirable situation allows for an increased thinking skill. Presently being a Level 2 school, our goal is to become a Level 1 school, and we are on our way with the work that we are doing.
We certainly know the value of the arts in our school; it aids children to have a well-rounded education. Our motto is: “Guiding us Beyond Our Creative Horizons,” and we are living up to that expectation. It is a wonderful feeling to hear about former students continuing in the middle and high school performance groups or attending art colleges due to the experiences they had at Bates Elementary School. With the Salem Public Schools’ continuing support of our prioritized arts curriculum, our students truly receive an enhanced education!
Thomas LaValley is principal of Bates School. This is one in a regular series of columns from the Community Advisory Board for the Salem schools.