Teaching Arts Project brings artists to the classroom

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

When Deborah Fisher left her job at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, she told the assistant commissioner that the department has missed its boat.

"You can't spend seven hours a day doing only reading and math. China did that, and now they have people who can't create," Fisher said.

Grants are available to bring artists into classrooms, but the money has sat virtually unused for years.

"People say there is no time for us," said Fisher, attributing it to increasingly stringent testing standards requiring proficiency in core subjects.

Fisher is spearheading a venture called the Teaching Artist Project, a reenergized push to train artists how to work in schools and to encourage schools to participate.

Gone are the days where an artist from a community might do a short presentation to help students "appreciate" art. Teachers now are looking for artists that can present lessons that teach new vocabulary, integrate science or reading concepts, and assess whether students have mastered skills presented.

Artists gathered last month and again this week to discuss how this could be accomplished. Those who finish the professional development will have their names placed in a directory, which will be presented to schools.

In the spring, the teachers and artists will meet to discuss how art can be incorporated into daily lessons and how teachers can apply for grants to bring the artists to their school.

Funds for the grants come from the National Endowment for the Arts, which directs money to the Missouri Alliance for Arts Education and the Missouri Arts Council.

Read tomorrow's Southeast Missourian for more information.

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