By Natasha Anderson
ArtSpace Charter School, in Swannanoa, is using its arts integration learning approach to facilitate students’ emotional, social, academic and physical recovery from the disruption of in-person education due to the pandemic. The school is uniquely poised to do so due to its integrated curriculum centered around visual and performing arts and its utilization of an experiential approach to a complete education.
“The infrastructure that has been built and solidified in our 20 years allows us to offer students recovering from a year of uncertainty and unforeseen hardships a space to learn and explore,” says K-8 music specialist and arts team chair Meg Novak.
Recent examples of classroom exercises integrating art include students’ examination of Picasso’s Woman by the Window, using the distinct style of the painting to provide an avenue for contrasting individuality and community and recognizing the strengths of each. During this exercise, students discussed how they could contribute to their school community’s pandemic recovery. In science class, while learning about adolescent development and brain science, students created artwork depicting definitions and content for each section of the brain, as well as their creative exploration of their own experience, which was often pandemic-related. A third-grade class used the book It’s Back to School We Go, by Ellen Johnson, to research what the first day of school is like in other countries. Students acted out interesting things they learned in a charades-style game.
“Integrating drama into the classroom facilitates crucial 21st-century skill development like collaboration, communication, taking turns, reading nonverbal cues, and being in the spotlight, which many students haven’t had the opportunity to practice in a very long time,” says ArtSpace executive director Sarena Fuller.
ArtSpace has invested in additional support staff to empower students’ recovery. Additional school nursing services, instructional assistants, math specialists, an English learner consultant and a social worker are now assisting staff and students.
“In prolonged periods of stress, when our bodies stay in fight-or-flight mode, we struggle to maintain equilibrium,” says Fuller. “These are big feelings for adults, let alone for young children, who are still learning how to identify, process and regulate their feelings and make sense of the world.”
ArtSpace Charter School is located at 2030 U.S. Highway 70, in Swannanoa. The school serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Learn more at ArtSpaceCharter.org.