The Georgia Department of Education’s recently named two Cobb Schools winners of the Creative School Arts Integration School of Excellence award. The GADOE championed Labelle Elementary School and Powder Springs Elementary School for providing students with access to arts integration in every subject. In addition, arts integration professional development is ongoing, the programs are well organized, and the schools involve the community in the arts. Georgia only recognized a total of five schools state-wide with the award.
“We believe the arts are an essential part of a well-rounded education, that they are valuable on their own and that they enhance learning in other subject areas,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “This award recognizes schools who are going above and beyond to integrate the arts into their students’ day-to-day learning experience.”
Powder Springs Elementary is not new to the educational world of arts integration. In fact, arts integration is an integral part of the culture and instruction at Powder Springs, according to the school’s principal Debbie Broadnax.
“Every student who attends Powder Springs has access to arts integration strategies within his/her classroom through our whole school model,” Principal Broadnax explained. “Through arts integration, all students are engaged in learning experiences that are fostering their communication, creativity, and critical thinking skills, as well as providing them with opportunities to work collaboratively with their peers. Arts integration allows us to teach to the whole child, thereby meeting students’ individual learning needs.”
Since the school launched the program in 2014, Powder Springs has emerged as a model for how to transform teaching and learning using arts integration strategies.
Powder Springs was the first Cobb school to implement the arts integration model and was also the first to earn the Cobb County School District Certified Arts Integration School recognition.
Twice a year, Powder Springs hosts a “Demonstration of Learning” Day where educators throughout Georgia and beyond come to observe students and teachers in action. They also host an Arts Integration Exhibition Night in which community partners, parents, and teachers attend to browse the showcase of student learning through photos, works samples, and live performances.
To further broaden students’ exposure to the arts, Powder Springs offers several extracurricular activities including, PSE Chorus, Broadway Kids-drama club, Music on Wheels, Artz for the Harp, Puppetry Arts, and Lisa’s Dance Spot. Students also go on field trips to places like the High Museum of Art, Booth Western Art Museum, Center for Puppetry Arts, and the Atlanta Symphony.
The arts integration program at Powder Springs encourages students to think in complex ways and apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired to solve problems. When confronted with perplexing unknowns, teachers facilitate students’ decision making on how they will approach their learning through a variety of fine arts disciplines. In doing this, teachers promote peer collaboration and student-centered learning through the continued integration of arts strategies, arts vocabulary, learning within the school’s arts integration studio space, and integrative learning activities within the classroom environment.
Like Powder Springs, Labelle Elementary School incorporates its arts integration program in all aspects of the school, which is one reason Labelle was also recognized as a Cobb Schools Arts Integration Certified School.
“It all begins with the intentional planning and collaboration of our teachers,” explained Labelle Principal Paul Watson. “During this time, Labelle educators not only identify the priority standards for the upcoming quarter but also plan and attach authentic arts integration strategies to go along with them. Our arts integration takes place every day in every classroom to give students a lens of engagement that is grounded in the arts.”
The community’s support has made the program at Labelle thrive.
Weaving in the arts throughout all academic areas has positively impacted both student engagement and achievement.
“Since beginning our journey with arts integration several years ago we have seen a significant decline in negative student behavior and significant increases in overall student achievement. We believe this is largely attributed to the implementation of arts integration and the level of engagement we are observing from our students,” Principal Watson added.