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
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
"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
"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
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
"Some students are not good test takers, this is one way to
evaluate students without pencil and paper tests," said
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
For more information about St. Joseph School, call (920)497-7085
or visit online at www.learninginthearts.com.