Arts Night at the Mabel Tainter

MARCH 10TH 2016

In January AIM’s celebration of arts integration was held at the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts. To accommodate everyone, two separate “Arts Night” events were held, in which C.I.T.A. teachers, students, UW-Stout student teachers, and local teaching artists showcased assorted arts infused lessons created within the first semester of the current school year. Focusing on the arts as a means to teacher support and retention, A.I.M. paired participating C.I.T.A. teachers with local professional artists (teaching artists), who work together, using various art forms to help deliver their curriculum to students.  Oaklawn, River Heights, and Wakanda Elementary Schools, as well as Little Sprouts Academy and UW-Stout’s Child and Family Study Center were all represented utilizing arts forms such as storytelling, guitar, theatre arts, songwriting, music composition, circus arts, percussion, screenwriting and film production.

The first Arts Night featured the Kindergarten team from Wakanda Elementary and the 3rd grade team from Oaklawn Elementary.  Highlights included Kindergarten students emerging from a brightly painted clown car to illustrate their counting skills and 3rd graders re-creating tableaus and incorporating dialog to tell the story behind famous historic paintings.  Wakanda Kindergarten teacher Jeanne Styczinski said of Arts Night, “Having this experience outside of the classroom, outside of our school, helped our class bond become even stronger. Students connected with one another in a different way and brought that positive energy back to the classroom the very next day. It was such a positive experience for all - the student, parents and teachers.”

The second Arts Night showcased “The Magical Math Kingdom” of Little Sprouts’ 4-K classroom, as well as River Heights’ Kindergarteners who used percussion and rhythmic chanting to recite sight words.  Also from River Heights was “The Sound Energy Junk Band” and “The Continents” songs, as performed by Rachel Kelm’s 2nd grade class.  Amber Eide’s 4th grade class rounded out the evening with filmed book “trailers” created with the help of screenwriter/filmmaker Charis Collins.  Teaching artist Collins commented, “Arts Night was transformative for me. My first term stretched and challenged me in so many ways, and watching kids and teachers interacting with each other and seeing how excited they were to share what they'd learned made me feel the inherent power of art. I'm realizing that this program is all about teachers learning to embrace risks in order to create lasting impressions and foster the love of learning.”

Both Arts Nights were full houses at the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts, with many attendees being first time visitors to the building. UW-Stout provided a photo booth for participants and families where they could record video memories of their experience with the A.I.M. program.  Jill Klefstad, Program Director for UW-Stout Early Childhood Education remarked, “Arts Night was an example of how learning should be in every classroom; an opportunity for teachers and children and parents to share a passion and hunger for learning through the arts.  It brought tears to my eyes as I watched the pride in the children and witnessed the proud moments of parents as they saw their children on stage.”

Though the students were in the spotlight, Arts Night was really a celebration of teachers who embarked on a new journey. The ultimate impact of arts integration is measured by the enhanced learning the students achieved due to the teachers’ newly acquired artistic skills.  

Integrating the arts and creating additional creative and artistic tools to reach students, teachers reported achieving deeper, meaningful learning experiences with students.

Reflecting on the A.I.M. program, Oaklawn Principal Lori Smith said, “It is truly amazing to see the benefits of students' increased self-confidence in reading, writing and speaking and performing.  Also, the students' ability to take another's perspective and demonstrate empathy for others has significantly improved as well.  It's been a lot of work for all involved, but a very worthwhile opportunity.”