Nationally recognized

Kennedy Center honors Glacier Valley for its 'Art is Elementary' program

Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2007

The teachers and staff at Glacier Valley Elementary hold arts education in high esteem, and they're not the only ones who do.

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This week, the Kennedy Center's Creative Ticket School Awards Program recognizes the school's work with arts in education.

Three other Alaska schools received state-level recognition in the National Ticket program this year, but only Glacier Valley moved into the national bracket.

It joined 25 schools across the country advancing to the national level of the Ticket Awards. Five schools make the final cut, which will be announced next August.

Glacier Valley's "Art is Elementary" program pushes arts education throughout its curriculum. The Kennedy Center singled out the program for making the arts essential in education, parental involvement and its teaching about other cultures.

The program came about through the work of the Glacier Valley Parent Group and teachers dedicated to arts in education, Principal Ted Wilson said.

"It's the best way to get kids to learn," arts educator Lorrie Heagy said.

For Heagy, arts education goes beyond drama class and visual arts. A basic science lesson can be enhanced through the arts, and grammar can be learned through song.

Award presentation

What: Kennedy Center award ceremony during presentation of "Spring Wings and Wild Things."

When: 10:30 a.m. Friday.

Where: Glacier Valley Elementary School.

"That way you don't have to teach it over and over," Heagy said.

The formal presentation of the award was scheduled at 10:30 a.m. Friday at a performance of "Spring Wings and Wild Things." District Superintendent Peggy Cowan will do the honors during the show by 200 Glacier Valley students.

Friday's performance is not just art as entertainment.

Research shows that arts education reaches everyone, including the learning-disabled, "at-risk" kids and children from poor economic backgrounds, Heagy said.

During a dress rehearsal Wednesday, students became eagles, whales, elephants, lions and bears. In doing so, they morphed from art to biology.

"Children learn through movement, emotion and relevance," Heagy said.

Students pay attention when they become animals; the learning process is in the body as well as the mind, she said.

The effects of the arts program are easy to see, according to Wilson. Because of drama lessons, students tend to speak up and participate more in other classes.

"When students work in the visual arts, we see increased confidence, and they are more excited in core classes," he said.

Discipline problems have decreased and fewer students were missing class, he said.

The expanded arts program is important because Juneau's elementary schools work with limited funding. Each school has a half-time music program, but no special money for arts, dance or drama programs.

"Art is Elementary" got its funding much the same way as a Little League baseball team: sponsorship and donors. Heagy and others wrangled 50 local business and individuals into providing a $20,000 budget this year.

"Lorrie is a great salesman," said Bob Rehfield. Rehfield is an accountant and partner in one of the top donor companies: Elgee, Rehfield, and Mertz. His company supports the long-term goal of raising overall test scores through the arts.

"We see an opportunity with their program," Rehfield said.

Accountants supporting art? Yes.

Rehfield said his industry recognized the need for a broader-based education leading to well-rounded future accountants. The accounting industry now requires a fifth year of college for a degree.

"They can take anything they want, including the arts and humanities," Rehfield said.

Success boosts Glacier Valley's hopes of attracting more local business involvement and financial support for all Juneau schools.

"Businesses like to support success," Heagy said.

The school district budget for next year, which is contingent on state funding, includes $5,000 in addition to private money for Glacier Valley's "Art is Elementary" program, Superintendent Cowan said.

Traditionally, the Ticket Awards invite the five top schools to present their programs at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

"We're hoping the Alaska mystique will play in our favor," Heagy said.

• Greg Skinner can be reached at greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.



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