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RPS 205 students, teachers practice arts integration

tableau-at-flinn-arts-integrationIn 23 years of teaching, Caroline Kelly Wright has seen what the arts can do for children. “It breaks kids out of their shell,” she said, showing them the importance of communication and collaboration.

Wright, a 3rd grade teacher at Johnson Elementary School, participated this month in an arts integration workshop for the Rockford Public Schools at Flinn Middle School. The workshop was led by Stuart Stotts, a Madison, Wis.-based storyteller, musician, author and teaching artist. Stotts’ work in RPS 205 is part of a four-year arts integration project, funded by a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant is in partnership with The Kennedy Center for the Arts.

Stotts is skilled in tableau, a dramatic art in which people create pictures to demonstrate understanding of a topic or theme. It could be something as simple as telling the story of a season (like winter) or as complex as describing the Berlin Wall or the relationship between Western and Eastern Europe.

Wright sees the effect it can have on students, some of whom might struggle with material covered in more traditional ways. “History can be real boring,” she said, “if you don’t put some drama and life to it.”

But it isn’t just about a more exciting curriculum.

Art integration can reach students with different styles of learning, Wright said. With its emphasis on teamwork, it helps all students develop the foundational skills of collaboration and communication. If you don’t have those, she said, “What good is that?”

The workshop on the tableau technique involved RPS 205 students as well as teachers. That’s key. Arts integration is something to try and try again. It’s important for everyone to take risks and refine their approaches, Stotts said.

He’ll be back in January to see how the tableau has changed.   

Mary Kaull is communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Also, please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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