Partners in the Arts announces 2018-2019 Engaging Creative Thinkers awards

January 31, 2019

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 (ECT) awards from PIA to carry out innovative arts integration projects in the 2018-19 school year. 

PIA provides training to PreK-12 educators in the theory and methods of arts integration. Arts integration uses various forms of art as a way to teach all content areas. Teaching through the arts has been shown to improve long-term retention of content, increase engagement in learning, foster social-emotional learning, and cultivate creative thinking skills. ECT Award projects are developed by teachers in each school and are specific to the curricular focus and needs of the school’s population.

The ECT awards provide a package of resources which together create a foundation for school-wide and sustainable arts integration. The package includes free tuition for up to four teachers from each school to attend PIA’s Joan Oates Institute, held annually at the University of Richmond in June. The institute is available as a 3 credit-hour graduate course and is open to PreK-12 educators of all grades and content areas. Additionally, award schools receive up to $5,000 to implement and sustain their projects by bringing in visiting artists and specialists and purchasing project-related materials. Other resources included in the award are advanced training in arts integration and professional development workshops for all of the school’s teachers, as well as assessment tools specific to each individual project.

The 2018-19 ECT awards provide support at two levels: Emerging and Sustaining. Three of this year’s award schools are first-time recipients of an ECT award, and one school has been granted an award to sustain and build upon existing integrated teaching projects.

Partners in the Arts is a membership consortium, founded in 1994. It is made up of Richmond’s arts and cultural community, and all educators in Richmond City, as well as Henrico, Hanover, Powhatan, Goochland, and Chesterfield County Public Schools, and several independent schools. For more information about PIA, the Joan Oates Institute, and Engaging Creative Thinkers Awards, visit

The following schools have received awards from Partners in the Arts for 2018-2019.

Emerging Awards

Falling Creek Middle School, Chesterfield County Public Schools

Project Title: This is Who I Am

This award will cultivate a multimedia self-expression project for English Learners at Falling Creek. Students will learn vocabulary, speaking skills, narrative structure, media literacy, and more through the use of photography and video, poetry, and visual art. The award will fund collaboration with local artists to help students learn how to create and refine art for the purpose of self-expression, as well as to help with the acquisition of the English language through art.

J.B. Watkins Elementary School, Chesterfield County Public Schools

Project Title: Ecosystems — Survivor Style

This project consists of a PBL science integrated unit in which students will explore topics such as food chains, adaptations, and ecosystems through theater and visual arts. Students will explore various types of ecosystems and organisms and document their learning through sketchbooks, as well as collaborate to act out components of these ecosystems. Students will then collaborate to create a project reflective of their new learning. The award will also support collaboration with a local theater/drama teaching artist.

Open High School, Richmond Public Schools

Project Title: Massive Resilience: Interpreting Richmond

This project combines content areas of History, American Literature, and Art, as students will explore Richmond’s slave trail and racial conflict in America through drumming, dance, drama, and digital storytelling. Students will learn about the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in conjunction with local history, connecting with local artists and curators. At the end of the unit, students will learn how to express their new knowledge and understanding through digital storytelling in order to personally engage and reflect upon their experiences.

Sustaining Award

Ruby Carver Elementary School, Henrico County Public Schools

Project Title: Engaging Creativity and Curiosity

This project aims to sustain the success of Ruby Carver’s 2016-2017 project Maker’s Space: Exploring Creativity. This project facilitated the creation of a Maker’s Space in the school library, where students can use different media to explore, invent, and create through the arts in order to understand academic principles and share their findings with their fellow students. The award is also meant to sustain the schoolwide use of sketchbooks as a creative tool to brainstorm, observe, take notes, and write reflections, providing a method for unique and creative exploration for each student.