Partners in the Arts announces 2017-2018 Engaging Creative Thinkers awards

December 13, 2017

Partners in the Arts (PIA), a program of the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies, is pleased to announce that five schools in the Greater Richmond area have received Engaging Creative Thinkers (ECT) awards from PIA to carry out innovative arts integration projects in the 2017-18 school year. 

PIA provides training to PreK-12 educators in the theory and methods of creative and experiential learning through arts integration. Arts integration uses the processes of all forms of art as instructional practice to integrate core curricular and art objectives into all classrooms. Teaching through the arts has been shown to improve long-term retention of content, increase engagement in learning, social-emotional learning, and cultivate creative and critical thinking skills. PIA ECT 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 ECT awards provide a package of resources that 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. Award schools also receive up to $5,000 to implement their projects by bringing in visiting experts, artists, and specialists as well as purchasing project-related materials. Other resources included in the award are advanced training in arts integration, professional development workshops for all of the school’s teachers, and assessment tools that are specific to each project and school.

The 2017-18 school year ECT Awards include providing support at two levels, Emerging and Leading, based on previous arts integrated projects in the school. Three of this year’s ECT Awards are first-time Emerging Award projects and two projects are Leading Awards that are in a third-year of implementation. Leading Awards represent a transformation within a classroom or school to sustained arts integration instructional practices.

Partners in the Arts was founded in 1994 and is a membership Consortium, made up of Richmond’s arts and cultural community and all educators in Richmond City and Henrico, Hanover, Powhatan, Goochland and Chesterfield County Public Schools, as well as several independent schools. More information about Partners in the Arts can be found at

The following schools have received awards from Partners in the Arts for 2017-2018.

Emerging Awards

Cold Harbor Elementary School, Hanover County

Project Title: Communities: Where We Live, Work, and Play

Second grade students will research and explore how people exist in urban, suburban and rural communities around where they live.  They will investigate their own community through anecdotes, interviews, artifact collection, and creating from their own interpretation. They will produce video broadcasts to share their findings with others as well as a large mixed media work of art, representing how people live, work and play in the community today, and in the past. 

Ecoff Elementary School, Chesterfield County

Project Title: Mindful Expression of Voice in Nature

This project will develop the school’s courtyards as outdoor learning spaces to promote environmental stewardship, mindfulness practices, and to help students with identifying and expressing their personal voice. Students will use visual and sound Art throughout their exploration and combine their voices and ideas with others as a Social Emotional Learning school.

Flat Rock Elementary School, Powhatan County

Project Title: Our Story

Armed with sketchbooks, fourth graders will venture out into the historic courthouse area of Powhatan County. Local historians will provide an oral history and help students dig into the county’s rich history. Oral storytellers, songwriters, illustrators, and graphic novelists will work with students to help them understand and engage with those art forms to share their community history and their own stories.

Leading Awards

Clover Hill High School, Chesterfield County

Project Title: CHHS Humanities Program

This project builds on two years of successfully integrating the arts into English and History classes. The Humanities Project expands by adding a 12th grade team to the 11th grade team of English, History, and Visual Art/Design teachers working collaboratively to meet the needs of students who are at risk of dropping out or delaying their completion of high school. This project blends arts, core curriculum, and kinetic activity to provide an authentic learning experience for students. Examples of activities are the Continental Congress Geocache, Recreating the Civil War, the Victory Garden, and the Conspiracy Theory projects.

Binford Middle School, Richmond City

Project Title: Engaging Our Binford Community In Light, In Depth, In Love and Celebration

This projects supports the third year of the school’s transition to becoming fully arts integrated. Building on last year’s quarterly inquiry themes, Engaging our Binford Community: In Light, In Depth, In Love and In Celebration will correspond with a focus for each quarter. The first theme will be In Light, with a showcase in November that corresponds with the 1708 Gallery In Light event. The learning focus will be on storytelling through shadow puppetry, video, and fashion. The second thematic focus will be In Depth, an open theme that allows teachers autonomy to plan and focus as they dive deeper into content and cross curricular connections. The third focus In Love, will allow students and teachers to explore what they love about the Binford and Richmond communities. The final focus will be In Celebration, as student learning and efforts will be highlighted and celebrated at the second annual community event “BAM” the Binford Arts and Music festival.