Monday, February 06, 2017

Arts create success at I.J. Holton

Picture in your mind highly engaged students displaying their learning in a variety of creative and innovative ways. Sounds great, right? I.J. Holton is the fortunate recipient of the Turnaround Arts: Minnesota program in collaboration with the Perpich Center for the Arts. Turnaround Arts (TAA) is a national school improvement program that has awarded 36 school districts across the United States funding through a grant. This grant provides resources to help the picture in our mind become reality by improving student learning, motivation and parent engagement in our school.

Research has found strategic arts programs can improve specific areas of need frequently found in high poverty, underperforming schools. I.J. Holton’s school improvement plan focuses on three major priorities: student learning, school culture, and family involvement. The TAA grant, with the support of the Perpich Center, provides resources such as shoulder-to-shoulder coaching, professional development, and networking with other schools to support these priorities and create school-wide change.

Student learning is our top priority at I.J. Holton. Tableau is a theatrical strategy we are implementing to help students apply and expand their knowledge and understanding across content areas by creating a living picture. Students have to work as a team to use their bodies to express ideas, using important means of dramatic communication such as gesture, facial expression, and body position.  The Tableau strategy increases students’ depth of understanding and motivation; as well as, provides teachers an additional tool to differentiate instruction and quickly assess student learning. I.J. Holton has six trained staff members to be Tableau coaches that are supporting our entire staff to become masters in the art of Tableau in the classroom.

A positive and thriving school culture is vital to school success. Each TAA school is adopted by a professional artist who works directly with students, teachers, and families to highlight the positive impact of the arts in schools. Students at I.J. Holton were delighted to hear a personal video message from Autumn De Forest, a 14-year-old professional artist, who is committed to supporting arts integration at our school. Another strategy to support positive school culture is called Acting Right. This is a classroom management strategy that supports our teachers in creating successful communities that flourish with cooperative learning opportunities. This strategy specifically builds student skills in concentration, cooperation, and collaboration. These are critical skills that empower students to take ownership for their own behavior and learning. Through the TAA grant we have a professional organization called Focus 5 to model to our entire staff this strategy as well as provide shoulder to shoulder coaching with our teachers. The students at I.J. Holton are all smiles while participating in these skill building activities.

Family Involvement at I.J. Holton is on the rise. Our Family Community Liaison, Lisa Denzer, continues to build structures through communication and school opportunities that support family and student needs during the early adolescent years. A quarterly newsletter including topics such as a note from the principal, counselor’s corner, student success tips, and family tech support is one way we are improving communication with our Holton families. In addition, we have an exciting event on March 28, Family STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) Night! This event will ensure family fun for all Holton students and their families, as well as all current fourth grade families in our district. We strive to create the transition to I.J. Holton to be as smooth as possible for our incoming families and this event will allow our incoming fifth grade students to join our present fifth and sixth graders in an opportunity to explore our school and enjoy hands-on arts and engineering learning activities set up throughout our building.

We are fortunate to have been provided this opportunity through the TAA grant to enhance the “A” in our STEAM school.

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