Schoolwide Arts Integration in Eastport brings artists into the classroom to train teachers

In 2018-19, the Maine Alliance for Arts Education (MAAE) is partnering with Eastport Elementary School (k-8) to provide all of the classroom teachers at EES with the artist training and ongoing support to create a first-in-the-state schoolwide, classroom teacher-based model of arts integration. With grant support from the Maine Community Foundation and the Davis Family Foundation, MAAE has gathered a stellar team of professional teaching artists across arts disciplines: Ian Bannon, of Figures of Speech, has brought Theater to the classroom, choreographer Katenia Keller will bring Dance, and Anna Woolf of Schoodic Arts for All has brought the Visual Arts.  Working with the teachers to create meaningful arts connections with their curriculum, and modeling those connections themselves with the students, the artists’ goal is to inspire the teachers and support them throughout the school year as the teachers begin to make the arts an integral part of their own non-arts classroom instruction.

On October 10th, we all enjoyed a full day of integrating clay sculpture into the classroom curriculum of the Kindergarten, 1st/2nd grade and 5th/6th grades. Students in grades 5/6 at Eastport Elementary School were so excited to sculpt their islands in 3 dimensions.  Prior to our clay work, the class had begun a social studies unit in which they divided into small groups, and were tasked with the challenge of creating an imaginary island.  They developed details about each island’s topography, history, technology, mythology, industry and art.  Classroom teacher, Lisa Mahar, has assigned students with this 2-month long study.  Anna Woolf worked with students and Lisa to explore ways to integrate visual art into this curriculum.

Here are photos of students creating 3-dimensional topographical models of their islands.  They also created sculptures that tell the story of each islands’ mythology.

This happens to be a “space island” with multiple advanced technologies, and surprisingly, a mythological monkey who gathered the resources for this island from neighboring space islands.  This human-shaped island hurtles through space, with a different technology housed within each of the islands “arms and legs”.

Arts Integration October Island Project - 1
Arts Integration October Island Project - 3

Other islands are more terrestrial, as in this grouping; with three land masses connected by a series of bridges.  The outer islands are “Summer Island” and “Winter Island” on which one family lives seasonally. The villagers, who live in the fertile center island, tend the peanut fields which is the primary export for the inhabitants.

This island closely resembles modern earth, with rivers, roads, forests and beaches.  The mythology of these inhabitants includes a god whose tears are the island’s rain.  Which, of course, required one student to mash his face into a sheet of clay to get the impression of the god’s face! (Not to worry, he was fine, the clay was fine, and the end result was a very successful crying god sculpture.)

The Maine Department of Education will be treating this pilot project as a case study, which if successful, will be providing data that will be disseminated on the DOE’s information platforms and presented to school administrators statewide. Stay tuned for further details.