stARTing Something through art at local schools
The nation is focused on incorporating science, technology, engineering and math into all content areas right now, but local schools are working hard not to forget about the arts.
stART Something is an organization that helps schools keep art as an educational priority through artist-in-residence programs, where artists stay and work with a school district for a period of time. It is a subset of Artists in Education, which is a statewide network of artists through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. stART Something partners with the PCA and the Cultural Alliance of York County to reach different schools.
Local artists spend time with school districts and teach their particular art form while incorporating different Common Core standards and other subjects. This year, Northern York School District is among a number of schools participating in an artist-in-residence program through stART Something.
At Northern: Northern School District's artist, Jason Reed, works with third graders at each of the elementary schools to teach them different styles of dance.
This is the second year that Reed has worked with the school district, according to Rachel Roach, the music teacher for South Mountain and Wellsville elementary schools. She said the district enjoyed working with Reed so much the previous year, they asked stART Something to send him again for the 2016-17 school year.
"For 45 minutes, he’s constantly changing and switching up styles of dance with them, and he has taught them about three different dancers that have been prominent in dance," Roach said.
It's hard work teaching complicated dances to third-grade students who are often shy about trying new things. Reed didn't begin taking professional ballet classes until he was 18, and two years later he studied dance professionally at The Julliard School in New York City. He said he wishes he had been exposed to dance and learned about his talent earlier.
That's why he works with young kids at school districts such as Northern and through his Reach! USA program, which he founded in 2005 to work with kids of all ages through assemblies, after-school programs and classes. Reed just wants students to try something new, even if it makes them uncomfortable, so they can continue to grow.
"It is sometimes awkward or embarrassing to do something that’s maybe different or you’re not used to," Reed said. "Even if you don’t like something or (are) uncomfortable with something, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it or do it."
REACH! Founder and Dillsburg Elementary School Artist In Residence Jason Reed teaches dance class Dec. 6, 2016.
Cross-curricular: Roach particularly likes how Reed goes out of his way to talk with third-grade teachers and other specialty teachers such as herself to incorporate things the kids are learning in the classroom into his dance lessons. For example, he has incorporated beat and rhythm from the music classes that Roach has taught, geography lessons and even math.
This is essentially what stART Something hopes to do by sending these artists to school districts through grant money, according to Gayle Cluck, regional director at the organization.
Cluck said the organization vets their artists thoroughly to ensure that not only are they talented artists but are adept at organizing lesson plans, working with students of all ages and making their lessons co-curricular. The idea is to make students in the classes better learners.
"Typically in a school, the artist uses their art form to teach core curriculum," Cluck said. "We know kids learn better when they’re routinely involved in the arts."
Jon Horton, principal of the intermediate and middle school in South Eastern School District, said this was an aspect he saw when his school had an artist in residence during the 2014-15 school year.
Horton said artist Justin Ayala inspired him to purchase more technology to be used in the arts. Ayala is an artist who works with technology arts and animation, according to stART Something's website. He worked with fifth-grade students using iPads and claymation projects.
"Art is everywhere, and basically it can be infused in all lessons in one form or another, and it can be done to a whole other level technology-wise," Horton said.
The future: Cluck estimates that stART Something has worked with every school district in York County since it started in 2008. This year there are artists at Ferguson K-8, Shrewsbury Elementary and York Township Elementary, to name a few. Reed was an artist in residence at York Academy earlier this school year and plans to return to the school in the spring.
Cluck said the program has grown significantly since its beginning. The organization has expanded to include an after-school program and a program with senior citizens called Creative Aging.
School districts interested in participating in the stART Something program for the 2016-17 school year are encouraged to contact the organization through its website so artists can begin coordinating their lesson plans.