School uses arts outreach
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 26, 2005
Betty Reid

The Cartwright School District is now officially art smart.

In an effort to expand its curriculum, offer students more choices and stop students from leaving for other districts with more sophisticated programs, Cartwright has designated Justine Spitalny School as its fine-arts magnet campus.

The new fine-arts program, called integrated learning, uses many aspects of the arts to enhance instruction, Spitalny Principal Patricia Lopez said.

She said the idea is similar to a study that showed how the brain remembers 90 percent of what it hears and sees acted out, compared with 10 percent of material etched to memory by reading a textbook.

For example, one feature has students learning the alphabet and boosting their vocabulary while in motion to music.

Any child, whether from Spitalny or from anywhere around the state, should have had a fine-arts experience before entering high school, said Lopez, who attended urban schools in Phoenix. She remembered feeling at a disadvantage when she reached high school and noticed that she had missed out on the arts and other basic instruction.

"My friends, all Hispanic girls, we went to school with the kids from North, Central and Alhambra, and we discovered we were not attuned to their level. 'Are they smarter than us?' we asked," Lopez said. "I learned later about the arts and grammar. I don't want our kids to feel at a disadvantage when they reach high school.

"I want to give our kids an even playing ground by giving them this opportunity."

The way Spitalny teachers draw the connection between moving and learning is already happening in classrooms. Liz Orlando's kindergartners, for example, tackled learning the ABCs and how to spell their names as though they were cheering their team at a sporting event.

Each time Yesenia Oregon, 5, flashed red and blue letters, her classmates recognized and shouted a letter, flung tiny hands into the air and cheered.

"It's much more effective than sitting down and copying letters," Lopez said.

Many urban schools have high populations of monolingual students who speak Spanish as a dominant language. Districts like Cartwright are addressing ways to help these students, identified as English language learners, to pick up the English language quickly.

Lopez believes that the new fine-arts program will help ELL children learn. First-grade students in Hale Harmon's classroom, for example, are learning about sound and words by thrusting their arms into the air, throwing punches and tapping their feet to music.

Students make a connection with sound, and the exercise improves their vocabulary, Lopez said.

Robert Aldana, 6, one of Harmon's students, learned about "like" and "little" and how to pronounce them.

Federal Title I funds, dropout-prevention dollars and student council funds activated Spitalny's magnet fine-arts program, district officials said.

Spitalny is a K-5 campus with a 750-student capacity. At least 697 students are enrolled, and about 300 students are identified as ELL students.

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