Infecting the School with Creative Arts

Some of the art work on display in the walls of Spotsylvania school district's board room
I had an interesting day yesterday in Spotsylvania County that ending delightfully with a walk through the Fredericsburg Battle Ground park with Brenda.  She’d ridden the train up in the afternoon.  I did two presentations during the day for educators in the county — one on the new story of education in the 21st century, and then an afternoon session with district art and music teachers.  I have to admit that I went into that session with only a vague idea of what I wanted to accomplish. 

There is a growing sense of the importance of creativity and, by association, music, art, drama, etc.  However, I think that it would be a mistake to merely bask in the glow of seeing creativity splashed across the goals of various state and national standards.  I think that it is critical that creative arts teachers, and all teachers, come to understand the conditions that have brought about recent interest in creativity as a basic skill, and adapt what they do to address and reflect the conditions — reinventing themselves.

I presented some ideas about how our evolving information landscape has changed what we should consider to be basic literacy skills.  I also shared and discussed a list of fundamental qualities of our students’ nearly native information activities.  The list was generated by a group of teachers in Texas who have worked in a 1:1 environment since 1997.  Interestingly, that list remarkable paralleled a list of leverage points shared with the group during a morning meeting.

The end of the session was spent in general discussion, though I found the group to be somewhat more shy than I would have expected of art and music teachers.  It was the afternoon, though, and they’d been in meetings all morning. 

One of the most interesting comments that I heard was how student communities tended to casually form around the arts.  This was certainly the case with my son’s high school experience with music and band.  Related, I think, to this sense of community was the problem of losing so many students from art, music, and drama, when they reached high school.  Many of the students who excelled and enjoyed the arts, found, when they reached high school, that all of their school day periods would be required to take the core courses they would need to get into college.

It occurred to the conversation, that community might serve to continue a tie between students and the arts, and the arts and the school, regardless of class courses and class walls.  Essentially, how could you make the arts and arts instruction happen outside the walls of the art classroom and the noise-suppressing walls of the band room?  How could we covertly cultivate those communities, independent of classes and facilitate creative arts instruction through those communities?

How might we inject the creative arts into the culture of the school and the greater community, infecting them with creative expression?

Author: David Istlandoll

David Istlandoll has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.