Partners in the Arts announces 2015-2016 Engaging Creative Thinkers awards

April 13, 2015

Partners in the Arts (PIA), a program of the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies, is pleased to announce that four schools in the Greater Richmond area have received Engaging Creative Thinkers awards from PIA to carry out innovative arts integration projects in the 2015-16 school year.

PIA provides training to PreK-12 educators in the theory and methods of arts integration. Arts integration uses all forms of art to teach all grades and subjects. Teaching through the arts has been shown to improve 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 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 taking place this year on Monday, June 22 through Friday, June 26. The institute is a 3 semester-hour graduate education course open to preK-12 educators of all grades and content areas that offers training in arts integration. Award schools also receive $5,000 to implement their projects by bringing in visiting artists and specialists and purchasing project-related materials. Other resources included in the award are advanced training for the project team in arts integration, professional development workshops in these skills for all of the school’s teachers, and assessment tools that are specific to each project and school.

Three of this year’s PIA Award projects focus on understanding history through activities such as creating graphic novels, tintype photography, traditional crafts, and claymation movies. These projects will be carried out Chesterfield County’s Greenfield Elementary School, Pocahontas Middle School in Powhatan County, and Clover Hill High School in Chesterfield, together offering new models for teaching American History at each school level. The fourth project, to be carried out at Binford Middle School, is a unique collaboration between PIA and Richmond Public Schools as Binford transitions to becoming an arts integration school. Working within the Richmond school system’s larger transition plan, the PIA Award will help provide training in arts integration for the school’s entire faculty. Both Clover Hill High and Binford Middle previously have received PIA Awards, in 2012-13 and 2013-14, respectively.

All PreK-12 educators attending the Joan Oates Institute 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 the 2015 Joan Oates Institute, PIA Engaging Creative Thinkers Awards, and Partners in the Arts, can be found at

The following schools have received awards from Partners in the Arts for 2015-2016.

Greenfield Elementary School, Chesterfield County Public Schools

Project Title: What Moves You? A Notion for Motion

This project for first and second graders will strengthen reading and writing skills through an exploration of Early American history, asking students to examine the character and motivations of Native Americans, European explorers, and the first pioneers. These qualities are the same ones that lead to success in the classroom and daily life. Students will study movement in film, storytelling, and cartooning, and create clay-animated movies about the historical figures and events they have studied. Students as well as teachers will keep sketchbooks in which to record ideas and images of their personal and academic development and how to achieve desired goals.

Pocahontas Middle School, Powhatan County Public Schools

Project Title: Creating America’s History from a Natural World

This project brings together math, science, social studies, physical education, language arts, and special needs education to give students hands-on understanding of how early European settlers in America forged a society out of the natural environment. Fifth graders will learn about colonial life through the lens of the natural resources and artisanal skills of that period, such as weaving and candle-making. They will also learn the music and dance of the time, an important basis of social life and community. Students will research different aspects of the colonial period and create movies, comic strips, and newspapers telling these stories.

Clover Hill High School, Chesterfield County Public Schools

Project Title: American Studies Humanities Project

This project integrates history, English, photography, culinary arts, and gardening to engage 11th graders who are at risk of not graduating on time. Students will study American history in four segments across the school year, each one integrating creative activities relevant to the time period being studied. For example, students will learn how to create tintypes photographs when studying the Civil War; as they study World War II, they will create Victory Gardens on the school campus which later will be maintained by students in Life Skills classes. The goal is to engage at-risk learners through experiences that activate their interests, skills, and attention.

Binford Middle School, Richmond Public Schools

Project Title: Binford Transformation

This award supports Richmond Public Schools’s 2015-16 initiative of transitioning Binford Middle into an arts integration school, where every teacher has received advanced training in using the arts to teach all subjects and in teaching across content areas. The PIA Award will be used to help build teacher competency in arts integration theory and teaching techniques and in collaborative project development. The award will also support the adoption and implementation of a whole-school language that teachers and students can use across subjects and which is based on shared creative thinking strategies.