Teachers secure grants to bring arts into the classroom

Burbank and Glendale teachers this week created three-year plans for incorporating the arts in the classroom as part of a highly competitive process in which they were awarded a total $30,000 each.

Of the 44 school districts that applied for the competitive workshop hosted by the Los Angeles-based Arts For All, 12 districts were chosen.

Arts for All promises each district a $20,000 grant in 2013 and a second $10,000 matching grant in 2014.

By Tuesday afternoon, Glendale and Burbank had outlined plans tailored to their district’s needs.

“In tough economic times it’s nice to have a resource that can support our teachers,” said Janet Buhl, assistant director for professional development in Glendale Unified.

Included in her goals — adding technology and increasing teacher collaboration — is seeing teachers’ knowledge and experience of the arts cultivated outside the classroom through conferences and workshops so that it can be returned to students in class lessons.

Those arts objectives may be implemented as early as January, Buhl said.

In Burbank, the goal is to fold theater and dance into the curriculum for kindergarten through fifth-grade students and increase the use of technology for media-related projects.

“The important thing is bringing our kids through to the 21st century in any field that heavily involves creative problem solving and thinking,” said Peggy Flynn, Burbank Unified’s arts coordinator.

In 2005, when Burbank schools created its first plan with Arts For All, Flynn said elementary schools did not have district-funded arts programs. Instead, they were financed by parent-teacher associations, and even then, only if they could afford to do it.

“[In 2005] we focused on equal access for every student,” Flynn said. “We’ve really come a long way with that.”

Burbank schools have since added video production and media design, while partnering with Woodbury University on specific projects.

At Jordan Middle School in Burbank, Principal Stacey Cushman said arts play a singular role across grade levels as one of the most important outlets kids have.

This can be especially important in middle school, she said, where educators are sensitive to meeting the emotional and social needs of students.

“The arts breaks down the barriers students have and it gives them a common thread. It gives them a way to explore those areas in a safe place,” she said.

-- Kelly Corrigan, Times Community News

Twitter: @kellymcorrigan



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