Published on Brock University (http://www.brocku.ca)
Three years ago, amongst a decline in funding for the arts and subsequent participation in the classroom, Drs. Shelley Griffin, Peter Vietgen and Kari-Lynn Winters came up with a vision that would help their teacher candidates further extend experiences in dance, music, drama and visual arts into their teacher education arts curriculum.
Having just finished its third year, the annual Arts Matter: Integrating the Arts Across the Curriculum conference was once again a rousing success; with close to 200 registrants participating in the two-day workshop.
The conference, designed especially for Brock's teacher candidates, provides additional instruction in the arts and focuses on valuing the arts and their integration across the curriculum, something that Griffin deems extremely important.
“I think as a whole, it’s a really great opportunity for our teacher candidates to engage in the arts outside the context of our courses,” said Griffin. “Knowing and experiencing the power of the arts for their own sake is one of our goals for the conference.”
Beginning the conference was keynote speaker Patrice Baldwin, the President of the International Drama Theatre and Education Association, a Council member of the World Alliance for Arts Education and Chair of National Drama, who addressed the participants with a presentation on why the arts matter in education.
After hearing Baldwin’s stories and insights, the candidates were primed for their day of workshops, consisting of drama and music.
Looking to not only build a broader knowledge and skill base, a common theme that presented itself throughout the conference was establishing a confidence these teachers candidates could take with them into the classroom.
“When I was in school, I never really got the opportunity to work with any instruments and part of the reason I think was because my teachers weren’t really educated in music,” said participant Joanna Kula after her music workshop. “I feel confident going into any classroom and implementing my lesson plan.”
Day two of the conference began with a powerfully moving performance by Leslie McCurdy entitled The Spirit of Harriet Tubman. Performed solo, with minimal props, McCurdy captivated the audience and impressed many, including one student who went to Twitter after the performance to say, “I am utterly speechless! What an amazing performance! She is my new hero!”.
With visual arts and dance workshops being held on day 2, participants had an opportunity to further develop their arts repertoire, something that participant Stacy Ricci was extremely pleased to have experienced.
“I think the more you can see the facilitators teach, the better you feel about teaching it yourself,” said Ricci. “Seeing an instructor demonstrate how you can implement these techniques to a room full of kids is so beneficial.”
Both teacher candidates and faculty members who helped organize the conference walked away with the feeling of a successful two days and valuable lessons to take with them as they move forward.
“For me, this conference is now an integral component of the teacher education program,” said Vietgen.
“We were fully registered with 200 participants in almost 48 hours – the demand is there. Our students want more time to experience arts education opportunities so that they can pass on their passion not only when they are out practicing teaching but also when they have their own classrooms in the future.”
At the conclusion of the conference, students gathered into the gym for closing remarks and were able to witness for the first time the culmination of the “Art Wall Installation” which was made up of the participants personalized art puzzle pieces; another item in a long list of highlights from this year’s conference.
Winters perhaps sums up the conference best when she says that “the 2012 Arts Matter conference was a glowing success” and that she feels “proud to be a part of the organization for this much needed conference”.