Seven schools in the Greater Richmond area have received Engaging Creative Thinkers Awards from Partners in the Arts (PIA) to carry out arts integration projects in the 2014-15 school year.

PIA, a program of the University of Richmond School of Professional & Continuing Studies, provides training to PreK-12 educators in the theory and methods of arts integration. Arts integration uses all forms of art to teach all content areas. Teaching all subjects through the arts has been shown to increase long-term retention of content, increase engagement in learning, and cultivate creative thinking skills. PIA Award projects are developed by teachers in each school and are specific to the curricular focus and needs of the school’s student population.

The awards provide a package of resources, valued at $7,500 for each school, which together create a foundation for school-wide and sustainable arts integration beyond the funded year. The package includes free tuition for up to four teachers from each school to attend PIA’s Joan Oates Institute, held at the University of Richmond and now in its 20th year. The institute is a 3-credit UR Education course open to PreK-12 educators of all content areas and grades. Other resources included in the award package are consultations with PIA staff on project planning and implementation, professional development in arts integration for all teachers at each school, and funds to carry out projects by bringing in visiting artists and specialists and paying for supplies.

Several of the 2014-15 PIA Award projects will use the arts to examine scientific and mathematical principles and processes, while others focus on history, language arts, and community. Art forms used in the projects include photography, theatre and performance art, digital media, storytelling, sculpture, and music. Three of the projects, at Linwood Holton Elementary, The Steward School, and Patrick Henry School for Science and the Arts, build upon earlier PIA Awards to further develop arts integration as a school-wide method of teaching. 

All PreK-12 educators attending the Joan Oates Institute, being held this year June 23-27, receive a substantial tuition discount from the School of Professional & Continuing Studies. Those who are members of the PIA Consortium, made up of Richmond City and Henrico, Hanover, Powhatan, Goochland and Chesterfield County Public Schools, as well as several independent schools, receive a PIA scholarship in addition to the tuition discount. More information about registering for the 2014 Joan Oates Institute, PIA Engaging Creative Thinkers Awards, and Partners in the Arts, can be found at spcs.richmond.edu/arts.

The following schools have received awards from Partners in the Arts for 2014-2015.

Midlothian Middle School, Chesterfield County Public Schools: Exploring Tone through Other Worlds

This project brings together English, math, science, visual arts, music and theatre to engage students in an exploration of how tone is created and its impact on human experience and understanding. Sixth through eighth graders will work with visiting artists and teachers to learn about tone as both a concept and a method, studying the science of sound waves and their relationship to tone and the use of tone in literature, painting, and performance to create meaning and response.

Chesterfield Community High School, Chesterfield County Public Schools: Curating Carver: Past and Present

The project will explore segregation through the lens of the history of the school, which in the past, as Carver High, was Chesterfield County’s sole secondary school for black students. Using music, photographs, and the writing and visual art of earlier students, current students will create narratives, an exhibition, and a website that will present the school’s history in the context of segregation and later integration. Museum studies and technical writing courses used to carry out the project will become part of the school’s on-going curriculum.

Linwood Holton Elementary School, Richmond Public Schools: Rocking Electrical Light Show Experiment

In this project, first through fifth graders will conceptualize and learn how to use force, motion, and energy in electricity, sound, and light as technical aspects of theatre. They will also learn how to play the ukulele and other instruments for the culminating concert that students will produce. The project extends the school’s 2011-12 PIA Award, which integrated science, visual arts, and music. The new project focuses on drama, music and science, with students working with theatre professionals in acting, lighting design, and the creation of electrical grids that coordinate the different technical components of staging plays and concerts.     

Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, Richmond Public Schools: Constructing Our Character, Reflecting Environmental Responsibility

This project for grades 1 through 5 will build upon Patrick Henry’s 2013-14 PIA Award in which students learned about environmental issues affecting the James River watershed. The focus of this year’s project is on three-dimensional art, how plastics are made, and their impact as pollution on the watershed. Students will work with a sculptor and environmental awareness groups to create installations in the school’s gardens as a reminder of the school’s connection to the community and the environment.

The Steward School: Conceptualizing the Language of Math and Art

This project for grades 6 through 12 examines elements of design through the lens of a mathematics, science, and arts. In 2012-13, the school’s PIA Award allowed students to create a digital database that explored photography’s relationship to the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Working in collaboration with Steward’s multidisciplinary Bryan Innovation lab, students carrying out the new project will make connections between math and visual art, including photography, to learn the language and process of each discipline and how these inform understanding across content areas.

Henrico High School, Henrico County Public Schools: The Art of Algebra: A Math Story

This project for ninth through twelfth graders will offer new ways to learn mathematics, specifically algebra, by bringing together the math department and the school’s Center for the Arts. The project’s methods are based on the idea that storytelling is an effective and engaging way to learn new math skills and convey algebra’s abstract concepts. Students will create visual art and learn storytelling, performance art, and oral presentation skills, increasing their mastery of these content areas and their self-confidence as creative thinkers.

Sabot at Stony Point School: Our Richmond

This award is for a long-term research and design project in which students in grades K through 5 will use photography, writing, and graphic design to learn about and become advocates for their community. Students will document their experiences and observation of community and represent these impressions in various art forms while working with artists, designers and writers. The goal is to give young people an understanding of active citizenship and a meaningful voice in conversations about community services and social change.