This is that wonderful week between Christmas and New Years that we are all in the midst of being thankful for our many blessings and gearing up to be inspired to start the new year off right.  As such, I thought it would be a wonderful time to highlight some arts integration programs that are doing some remarkable work to help inspire us all.

First up is the Lucy School, which is based right outside of Frederick, MD.  The Lucy School is a private K-3 school where the entire curriculum is based upon using the principles of arts integration.  Not only that, but they are also using “Green” initiatives, and their newest building on the property is entirely LEED certified (which basically means it was built with as many certified green materials as possible).  This fantastic school allows children to explore their creativity, use nature as a medium for science, art and other contents all while teaching the MD State Curriculum.  I had the pleasure of meeting with its found Victoria Brown this summer and she is truly an inspiration.  She provided me with student work samples, took me on a tour of the facilities and has been gracious enough to allow our teachers to visit while school is in session.  I can tell you from these glimpses that students are working far above “grade level” while being able to make those meaningful connections we all seem to dream about but are sometimes difficult to accomplish.  At the end of the day, students are leaving there to enter private or public schools reading up to 2 grade levels beyond their peers.

Next, I’d like to highlight Kensington-Parkwood Elementary School in Kensington, MD.  This public elementary school in Montgomery County, MD was able to secure a large grant several years ago to start an arts integration program and it has since flourished school-wide.  They put on a school opera every year, written and produced by the students of course.  In addition, every classroom is using some sort of arts integration throughout the year, and arts integration is a main component in the school improvement plan.  Student work samples are everywhere and they are proud of the many ways they can “see” their learning.  In addition, teachers receive ongoing professional development opportunities with the Kennedy Center’s CETA program and several teachers have been hired privately to present their ideas nationally.  This is a public school that is really doing it “right” in terms of arts integration – I encourage you to take a look.

And finally, a charter school to round out the list!  Maryland Mountain Public Charter School is slated to open in the fall of 2011 and is working full steam ahead to become the first K-8 fully arts integrated charter school in Alleghany County, MD.  The ideals and practices for the curricula allow for project learning, giving students the opportunity to combine lessons from various subjects into units that are then assessed as portfolios.  Students are then able to use these connections throughout all subject areas, creating links beyond each lesson.  This, therefore, mimics real life applications and 21st century critical thinking skills.  I’m excited to see how the future of this school unfolds and think it’s definitely worth watching.

Well…there you have it.  Three schools that I think are doing a fantastic job of inspiring the rest of us to the possibilities of arts integration.  These three alone give me more ideas than I can hold in – I might need another post just to jot them down.  Let the conversations, collaborations and connections begin!