In reading "Why Arts Education Is Crucial, and Who's Doing It Best," by Fran Smith (February/March 2009), it was uplifting to learn about the many new initiatives that support the arts. Research has proven that the arts lead to greater academic progress as well as social and emotional growth in students. With the decline in art and music teaching in the past three decades, more administrators are acknowledging their importance in schools today. Working toward an infused arts program will provide our students with a well-rounded education and a fuller life.
When I teach songwriting, students learn many other fundamentals, including drafting, revision, voice, word choice, and editing. Once the songs are polished, we rehearse and record them. I use Apple GarageBand, but any basic recording software will do. During recording, students do even more writing and revision. Revisiting the song over and over engrains the idea that real writing is revision.
West Deptford, New Jersey
OMA Goodness, It's Art!
I teach at an OMA -- Opening Minds Through the Arts -- school in Tucson, so I was pleased to see your Edutopia video Music and Dance Drive Academic Achievement. It is wonderful to teach the standards for language arts through music.
My class has a team visit twice a week, and they teach the class how to create an opera. The class writes the music and story and develops the characters. This process touches on most of our state standards for first grade, and it reinforces what I teach in my class.
I have worked with the OMA musical trio for two years. In my math and science classes, these wonderful musicians have opened the doors to pathways that connect music, rhythm, and composition to our subject matter.
Little miracles happen each week as my students make real-life connections between what we study and how it fits into another enriching world outside of our classroom. The collaboration between the OMA artists and teachers breathes life back into the art of teaching. To create a bridge between skill building and practice to mastery and application is incredibly important.
Mutually Beneficial Activity
I have been an activity director in long-term-care facilities for 14 years, and I would love to have the opportunity to work with children within a nursing home ("Senior Citizens Help Young Children with Reading -- and Relationships," February/March 2009). Not only does it benefit the elderly but it may also prolong their lives. It also helps the children to not be afraid to come into long-term-care facilities!
When elders have the opportunity to share some of their wisdom, patience, and life with schoolkids, it's a wonderful partnership for everyone. What a terrific way for children to have folks who care, share, and read to them, and have an impact on their lives.
Buying in to Plugging In?
I teach in a semirural school district that is beginning the implementation of an online grade-book application similar to the School Loop program described in "Student-Information Systems Monitor Kids' Grades" (February/March 2009).
This program worries me a bit, because I already see the attitude in my school paralleling what is mentioned in the article: Rather than presenting the online application as a benefit to teachers, it was issued as a district initiative. I'm all for the idea, but as with all technology, it will be effective only if all participants -- teachers, students, and parents -- buy in to it.
Amherst, New York
Edutopia Inspires Sharing
I've received so much valuable advice from Edutopia that I've incorporated it into my teaching. Teachers, parents, and students have often asked me for links to Web sites I've used after I learned about them in Edutopia.
I put together a subject-based directory of these mostly free resources, as well as other sites teachers have passed on to me. About 50 Web sites a week are added to the directory, and teachers, parents, and students rate their favorites and clunkers.
Reader Dona Blakely illustrated her visual-spatial intelligence, and limned our lack thereof, in noting that the top image on page 31 of our February/March issue, the abstract mural Contemporary Chicago, was printed upside down.