Art Smart

11/05/2012 3:06 PM

11/05/2012 3:51 PM

Lake Norman’s private schools have long recognized that when it comes to education the arts aren’t just the extras. From painting to music to drama, classes that spark creativity are often some of the most important for kids. At schools like Countryside Montessori, the arts are as integrated into school life as sports, says Dolores Murgolo, the school’s curriculum coordinator. “The Montessori philosophy is to expose students to all aspects of learning,” Murgolo says. “That includes art, music, community service and more.” Murgolo would know. She’s taught every grade level at the school during her 20 years there. Throughout the school’s 30-year history, visual and performing arts have always been part and parcel of the experience. They’re not separated from, but an integral part of, the overall curriculum. This philosophy extends into the classroom in many ways. For instance, Murgolo says that when reading great works of literature, students sometimes produce dramatic reenactments of the story, which help bring the characters and book alive. The school’s music program is also infused with creativity, with electives such as “Notable Composers” and “Disney Music” designed to help spark interest in a wide range of students. Visual arts at Countryside incorporate several different mediums, such as drawing, clay, weaving, plaster and carving. And the performing arts programs have after-school drama clubs that perform end-of-year plays each year. The arts are a family affair at Pine Lake Preparatory, a charter school in Mooresville. Former Disney World performer Justin Leluika teaches visual arts to middle schoolers, and his wife, Andrea Leluika – also a one-time Disney performer--teaches chorus and theater to middle schoolers. “At Pine Lake, we believe a strong academic program is essential. But a strong arts program is equally important,” says Justin. “Arts are integrated throughout math, science, language and history lessons. If a science class is looking at atomic structure or the musculoskeletal system, we’ll try to incorporate those lessons in art class, too,” he said. The school also incorporates some of the latest technological trends into its arts programs. In band classes, for example, students have access to a computer program called smartmusic, which uses special software to tell a student if he or she is playing the right notes. “So students aren’t just practicing,” Andrea says. “They’re getting coached.” And music classes involve much more than just playing an instrument. Students are given the chance to learn music history as well, so that they can both read and appreciate music. “Art gives children an outlet for emotions they may not be able to express in other ways,” says Joe Ivy, an upper school arts teacher at Pine Lake. “It engages the imagination and fosters problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. It offers an environment to hone talents and discover new talents.” Art is also an integral part of the learning process at Woodlawn School in Davidson, where founder Dwayne Bowman explains that art classes are required in kindergarten through eighth grade. Students also regularly visit museums, historical sites and theaters as part their curriculum. “The arts are a great way to integrate many components of our curriculum into something that is experiential for the student,” says Bowman. “Many times students work on arts pieces that are connected to a mathematical concept, a certain period of history, a piece of literature or a scientific principle. We believe arts are fundamentally important to becoming an independent lifelong learner.” The arts are required at all levels of Davidson Day (pre-K through 12th grade). “In the upper school students are required to take a minimum of one art credit, but the vast majority chooses to participate in multiple classes (including painting, photography, ceramics, digital illustration, 3D animation, improve and modern music) due to the diverse range of offerings,” says Mike Thomas, director of the Fine Arts Program and also a teacher. Thomas stresses that art can help some kids gain the same self-confidence student athletes gain on a field—but their classroom is in front of a canvas or on a stage. “I have seen shy students come out of improv class confident leaders and communicators,” says Thomas. “I have known kids who seemed a bit lost find themselves behind the lens of a camera.” But Thomas also stresses that the learning process isn’t always easy, and that a large part of the arts is developing skills through careful training and discipline. “Every art student learns how to inquire for themselves whether they are creating quality work,” he says. “Each work of art is full of obstacles to be overcome, whether it is a painting, a piece of music or a scene from a play.” At Ramah Christian Classical School, the arts are viewed as having a higher purpose, and viewed within a Christian context. “Arts education is designed to cultivate a deeper love for God and appreciation for his creation,” says Head of School Matthew Shuts, who notes that the arts help children find a proper balance between their heart and head, mind and character, form and spirit. “It’s woven into the fabric of all that we do on a daily basis.”

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