The Lowcountry Arts Integration Project was a four year project (plus four pilot years) that brought learning through the arts to teachers and students at St. Helena Elementary, Whale Branch Elementary, and Whale Branch Middle schools.
In math and science classes, artists opened the learning box with the techniques and insights of dance, drawing, batik, weaving, creative writing and painting. In English and social studies classes, and in gymnasiums and music rooms, students participated in hands-on, in-depth, 3D, real-time, standards-based projects in order to acquire both academic and arts skills. The How Do You Know guide includes a myriad of pictures and documentation from these classes.
To further strengthen this project, local Gullah community scholars were invited into the schools to share their working knowledge and skills, showing their own arts-infused folkways with sweetgrass baskets, quilts, and ring shouts.
The project ended in June 2011 and was supported by a US Department of Education Arts Education Model Development & Dissemination Grant.
The guide is an overview of what we did, what the obstacles were, what we accomplished and what we recommend:
• How-To from teaching artists: “Arts Integration and the process of Transformation.”
• Reflection from students: “We keep our mouths shut so our muscles can learn.” “I learned that writing long and adventurous stories calms me.” Teachers: “As a middle school science teacher, I am always looking for ways to incorporate real life lessons into my classroom.”
• Tips for teaching artists: “Team teach. Learn each other’s vocabulary and concepts so that modeling integrated learning can occur for the students.”
• Insight & tools for parents: “Take nature walks and observe shapes and colors.”
• Reflection and action from Gullah Cultural Community Scholars: “They are proud of who they are. We are helping to build their confidence and self-esteem.”
• Resources for the betterment and advocacy of learning through the arts: “Leaping the Implementation Hurdle.”
The guide also presents 16 original, arts-integrated lesson plans with color images. The Gullah community scholars section focuses on their work with the book “Circle Unbroken.”
For additional perspective on the Lowcountry Arts Integration Project, the Fall 2011 issue of the Oxford American has an essay called “Writing with Boys” in Beaufort, wherein a teaching artist explains the importance of learning the creative writing process in schools with high percentages of students on free and reduced lunches, in a county that ranked #5 in the nation for millionaires in the past decade. (www.oxfordamerican.org)
The How Do You Know guide will remain online at http://eatgoodbread.com/laip.html for public use. Educator Lois Lewis best summarized the lasting effects of the project in Beaufort and arts integration everywhere: “I am extremely proud of my students’ products. The marriage of their skills in art and understanding of nature demonstrates how both specialties are enhanced. Additionally, my teaching skills are improved when I can reach students in new ways, encourage success in students who have not responded to traditional approaches. We must remember that every child has a unique way of learning.”