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October 13, 2014
Bigfork School is embarking on an Arts Integration Project

6 Bigfork teachers work to integrate artNine school districts in Northeast Minnesota, including Bigfork School, are embarking on a long-term adventure with the Perpich Center for Arts Education and receiving concentrated support and direct professional development. Using state Legacy funds, teacher teams create new curriculum that infuses academics and the arts in ways that the participants believe will help to increase learning, heighten student interest and build community in their schools. 

Teachers at Bigfork School who are participating include: Pamela Francisco – Math, Daniel King – English, Nosara Kuschel – Spanish/Social Studies, Robyn Heinle – Science/Health, Roberta Steinhart – Art, and Siri Prato – English.

Participating teachers are looking forward to being able to collaborate with each other to better serve their students, and they look forward to being able to get the students more involved in their community, as well as bringing some of the many Bigfork area artists into the school.

The schools and districts involved are Bigfork School, Deer River High School and Nashwauk-Keewatin High School, Itasca County; Cloquet Public Schools and Cromwell-Wright School, Carlton County; Ely Public Schools and Proctor Public Schools, St. Louis County; Hill City School, Aitkin County; and William Kelley High School, Lake County. 

To develop and teach arts-integrated curriculum these teachers are receiving professional development and funding as they create rich learning opportunities in their classrooms. The entire cohort of 50 teachers meets several times in the region, and each team is visited by Perpich staff. This summer they began working on arts integration during a three-day institute.

The participating Bigfork teachers also participated in a strategic planning workshop on Friday, October 10 in which they began planning for the specific units and standards that will include arts integration.  Preliminary ideas include a collaboration between Biology and Geometry with photography, a carnival with collaboration between Spanish and Art, and community interviews/history with photography and poetry.

Perpich began its work four years ago with school districts in West Central Minnesota, made possible with Perpich’s first Legacy Fund appropriation. Southeast Minnesota schools joined the network in 2012, and this year, in addition to a new Northeast network, a group of 14 secondary teachers began work to develop whole courses using arts integration. 

Since the project began, the Perpich team has led workshops and provided coaching to schools and individual teachers as they integrated arts and academic subjects based on Minnesota academic standards. Teachers work together in cross-disciplinary teams, to create their own curriculum designs that engage students in making connections. 

This past year more than 2200 students benefited from arts-integrated learning experiences in their schools, taught by teachers in the Perpich Arts Integration Network. Data from an outside evaluation indicated that 85% of teachers experienced great improvement in creating arts-integrated curriculum units. 92% of arts integrated lessons observed by evaluators showed students highly engaged in their learning. “Overall our evaluators observed more rigorous, thoughtful work in arts integrated classes compared to those classes that did not involve the arts.” said Pam Paulson, Senior Director of Policy at the Perpich Center. 

“The energy, expertise and willingness to collaborate with each other is astounding, particularly as new teacher teams assemble into networks. A real commitment to finding ways to benefit their students fuels their common exploration of arts integration, even though the subject area combinations and curriculum plans are unique,” says Byron Richard, Northeast Project Coordinator.

A key element of the Perpich Arts Integration Network of Teachers is to share what the teachers have learned, along with their lesson plans. This is accomplished on the web where other educators from around the state can download the curriculum and related materials to use in their own classrooms. Learn more about the collaboration effort on the Perpich website.

Perpich is a state agency that serves all school districts in Minnesota. Created in 1985 by the legislature, the agency seeks to advance K-12 education throughout Minnesota by teaching in and through the arts. Perpich staff and faculty provide outreach, professional development, research, curriculum and standards development. The agency includes a statewide arts education library and a two-year public arts high school open to students from throughout the state.

The Legacy Amendment, approved as a state constitutional amendment by voters in 2008, raised the state sales tax by three-eighths of a percent with the resulting revenue dedicated to preserving wildlife, cleaning up the water in state lakes and rivers, park and trail maintenance and enhancing state arts education initiatives. The bill runs through 2034 with 19.75% of the revenue appropriated for arts and cultural resources. More information about the legacy ammendment is available online.