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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinAugust 22, 2003 Issue 

Education is a work of art at St. Joseph School

Art, music, dance, drama and more enhance learning


By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor

How would you teach the color red to a child?

You may find a red sheet of paper, or use a red crayon or marker.

Would you ever consider using a work of art such as Vincent Van Gogh's 1890 painting entitled "Red Poppies and Daisies," for example? The painting prominently features the color red and the child is introduced to a historic piece of artwork.

Weaving the arts into learning is the mission at St. Joseph School in Green Bay. During the 2003-2004 school year, teachers will concentrate on using the arts in language arts and social studies.

"Using the arts as a learning tool is a way to make learning more interesting and concrete to the students," said Principal Pat Wadzinski. "It opens up different avenues for learning."

Ginni Engelbrecht, visual arts teacher at St. Joseph, researched integrated programs. In November of 2002, she and Fr. Mike Ingold, pastor at St. Joseph Parish, traveled to New Orleans to observe Sr. Carol Artery, OP, and Sr. Priscilla Wood, OP, of the Dominican Arts Project. Srs. Artery and Wood travel throughout the country teaching ways to integrate the arts into the curriculum. In January of 2003, they visited St. Joseph School.

"We knew we wanted to use the arts in learning, but we didn't know how do to this," said Wadzinski. "They came for a weeklong workshop and worked closely with our teachers."

"We couldn't ask our teachers to do this without offering some training," said Engelbrecht.

Many of the teachers had used the arts in the classroom, but were not thinking of it as integrating the arts, said Wadzinski.

"While before it was used to certain degrees, now we are concentrating on using the arts," she said.

"We are using the arts in addition to the textbooks," said Engelbrecht. "We are not throwing out the textbooks. It enhances the textbooks."

For example, if a class is studying ancient civilization, students may write dialogue between two emperors to dig deeper into their thoughts as they were being invaded. Other examples of integrating the arts include making masks from a country being covered in social studies class and dance lessons in the "Charleston" while studying the 1920s.

Integrated learning offers students a different form of expression, said Engelbrecht.

"If you have a student who struggles with reading, this teaches to their other intelligences," she said. "It involves a lot of critical thinking."

"Some students are not good test takers, this is one way to evaluate students without pencil and paper tests," said Wadzinski.

As a part of its commitment to the arts, St. Joseph School is offering students the opportunity to participate in the Suzuki Method music program taught by Dr. Benjamin Smeall. The Suzuki Method is a system that teaches the violin, piano and the cello to young children. It uses the "Mother Tongue" approach established by Shinichi Suzuki, the master violin teacher who founded the "Talent Education Institute" in Japan. Dr. Smeall, who has a Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the Berklee College of Music, is a member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas.

Getting out of the classroom to explore the arts is also a part of the program. A school trip to see the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is planned.

"We want to get them (students) into the bigger arenas so they can see orchestras and see the connections between the subjects," said Wadzinski. "There is more to life than Green Bay, and this will help them to be better lifetime learners."

"It teaches them not to be afraid to take risks and exposes them to diversity," said Engelbrecht.

Wadzinski and Engelbrecht said the introduction to the integration of the arts in the curriculum during the second half of the last school year will prove valuable this year. Engelbrecht, who previously taught two days a week at the school, will now be available a third day as a resource for teachers seeking ways to weave the arts into lesson plans. She is encouraged by the enthusiasm of the staff.

"For me one of the most exciting things was seeing someone who expressed something bordering on fear to come around and say 'What do you think about this idea?'" she said. "It's an exciting way to help students reach their potential."

The goal is to extend the integration of the arts into other subjects, including math and science, in future years.

"We are starting with language arts and social studies and building from there," said Wadzinski. "It's not a new concept. There are schools across the country integrating the arts. It's all about enhancing learning for the kids and giving them a good foundation."

For more information about St. Joseph School, call (920)497-7085 or visit online at www.learninginthearts.com.


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