When President Obama announced his universal pre-K initiative during the State of the Union Address this past Feb. 12th, a preschool educator was listening from a very coveted vantage point: a couple of seats away from First Lady Michelle Obama in the House of Representatives chamber. Susan Bumgarner teaches four-year-olds at Wilson Arts Integration Elementary School in Oklahoma City. The school participates in the Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education program.
Since 1995, Susan and the other teachers at Wilson have attended professional learning programs sponsored in partnership with the Black Liberated Arts Center, Inc. The Kennedy Center program is a network of nearly 100 arts organizations and their neighboring school districts in more than 40 states that “partner” in offering professional development for teachers and teaching artists. The Kennedy Center program also offers a roster of trained teaching artists to support the Partners in Education sites.
Also offered by the Kennedy Center are national learning institutes on arts integration, online and traditional curricular and instructional resources and valuable lesson plans. Support for its programs is provided in part by the Office of Innovation and Improvement through the Arts in Education National Program grant.
April 2012 marks the celebration of the 11th annual Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM). The U.S. Department of Education is joining forces once again with the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History as well as more than 25 governmental, cultural, and community organizations to support this important cultural and educational initiative.
As Arts in Education Week – September 11-17 – was being observed, arts integration was a hot topic nationally. Consider these two statements about arts integration: (1) “Creative teachers have integrated the arts with other subjects for years. During the past decade, however, there has been an upsurge of interest in this approach.” And, (2), “In recent years, arts integration has … generated a lot of enthusiasm from classroom teachers, school administrators and policy researchers for its ability to produce results.” These are very similar testaments to the concept of arts integration, but more than three decades separate the two.
The first statement is from “Coming to Our Senses: The Significance of the Arts for American Education,” a landmark report of a national panel convened by David Rockefeller, Jr. in 1977 to explore the notion that “education” and “the arts” need not be mutually exclusive – that they in fact could be productive partners. The second is taken from “Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools,” a report of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) released this past May.