Saluda Elementary School is one of the 65 schools in the North Carolina A+ Schools Program. As an A+ School, teachers integrate the arts into all subjects, and students are exposed to all art forms (dance, drama, music, visual arts and creative writing). Teachers address the state standards through interdisciplinary thematic units, combined with arts integration and hands-on, experiential learning, including daily arts instruction by certified arts teachers. Integration of the arts into the curriculum allows students to be taught the way they learn best. It is a school-wide belief that innovative thinking and creativity are essential skills students need and that the practice of arts-integration fosters these skills for children.
The A+ Schools Program is a whole-school reform model that views the arts as fundamental to teaching and learning in all subjects. Since 1995, A+ Schools have been using the arts as a catalyst for creating connections and making school an engaging, meaningful and enjoyable place to teach and learn. Researchers have consistently found that A+ Schools are able to respond to accountability standards in both effective and creative ways, meeting standards in N.C.’s high-stakes testing program without narrowing the curriculum. This is done through the combination of interdisciplinary teaching and daily arts instruction, offering children opportunities to develop creative, innovative ways of thinking, learning, and showing what they know. In A+ Schools, teaching the state’s mandated curriculum involves a collaborative, many-disciplined approach, with the arts continuously woven into every aspect of a child’s learning.
Arts education at Saluda School is approached in three ways:
Arts integration– bringing together arts and non-arts objectives to create hands-on, experiential, connected and meaningful learning experiences.
Arts Education–developing an understanding and comfort in the elements, principles, history, processes and works of each art form.
Arts Exposure–creating opportunities for students and staff to experience artistic works, performances and careers both in the school and in the community.
The program is ground in eight A+ Essentials. The A+ Essentials were created by a network of teachers, coordinators, principals, and A+ Fellows and serve as a set of core commitments woven into practices throughout A+ Schools. Teachers and teacher assistants at Saluda Elementary School attended a two-day arts institute, in August, provided by the A+ Schools Program of the North Carolina Arts Council. Some topics included Storytelling with Shadow Puppets, Art and the Environment, Music in Culture, and 1, 2, 3 Design with Me. These workshops provide staff with multiple avenues to inspire students to learn the curricula.
The mission of the North Carolina State Board of Education is that every public school will graduate students who are globally competitive for work and post secondary education and prepared for life in the 21st century. In 2006, the North Carolina State Board of Education adopted this mission, and goals focused around the themes and skills identified in the 21st Century Skills Framework. The Framework describes 18 different skills, knowledge, and expertise students must master to be successful in school and in work in the 21st century. Visit www.p21.org for more information about 21st Century Skills.