School Wins National Award for Arts Program

October 22, 2007
Kensington Parkwood Elementary School Wins National Award for Integrated Arts Education

Kensington Parkwood’s success in integrating the arts, creating imaginative learning environments, involving parents, and linking arts education to community cultural resources has earned the school a Creative Ticket National Schools of Distinction Award for the 2006–2007 school year. The school was one of only five throughout the nation to receive the award, given by the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network.

“Teachers and students seek to make natural connections between the arts, other curricular subjects and real life,” says Mary Whalen, arts integration lead teacher at Kensington Parkwood. Teachers look at the Montgomery County Public Schools curriculum each quarter to see how they can integrate the arts into that curriculum. They work in teams to determine opportunities for arts integration.

This translates into an exciting learning environment for students.

For example, kindergarten students use their bodies to create letter shapes. First graders learn about impressionism with Ezra Jack Keats’ book, Dreams, and make their own impressionistic paintings. Second graders use the art of tableau (living pictures) to sequence and retell stories from many cultures. Third grade students listen to and describe music as an inspiration for improving their descriptive writing. Fourth grade students, teachers, and arts specialists do an integrated Native American unit each year that includes music, art, folktales, and dance, as well as ways in which their environment impacts each of those things. And fifth grade students learn about Kandinsky’s geometric prints and create their own as an assessment of their learning in geometry.

“Every single one of our staff integrates art into the curriculum on a daily basis,” says Principal Barbara Liess. “This is a whole-school initiative.”

Kensington Parkwood became an arts integration school five years ago. Former principal John Ceschini and the principals of Potomac and Dr. Charles R. Drew elementary schools applied for and received a three-year arts in education grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

That grant ended with the last school year, but the arts integration program is still going strong.

Kensington Parkwood teachers participate in ongoing professional development, including sessions with the Continuing Education Through the Arts program at the Kennedy Center. Through a new program, Kennedy Center artists come to the school to give pointers to the teachers. Teachers attended the weeklong Maryland Artist/Teacher Institute during the summer, which focused on using the arts to improve students’ reading comprehension. Kensington Parkwood is part of a nationwide consortium of schools focused on improving student learning through music. The school is part of a model program that will enable its teachers to mentor teachers in arts integration at other schools in the state and country.

Parents and students are thrilled with the program. “What an incredible opportunity for creative learning!” says one parent. Adds another, “There is a good balance between arts and mechanics of concepts.” Parents are involved in the program in a variety of ways, from forming arts integration groups to participating in school art events to assisting artists-in-residence with special projects.

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