West Kelowna elementary school gets infused with arts

Grade 4 students in the George Pringle Elementary strings program practice their music Wednesday. The West Kelowna elementary school was one of six schools in the province chosen to participate in the Infusion: Arts in Education program. - Wade Paterson/Capital News
Grade 4 students in the George Pringle Elementary strings program practice their music Wednesday. The West Kelowna elementary school was one of six schools in the province chosen to participate in the Infusion: Arts in Education program.
— image credit: Wade Paterson/Capital News

George Pringle Elementary is painting over traditional education practices with an arts-infused style it hopes will engage students.

The Westside school is one of six elementary schools in the province chosen to participate in Infusion: Arts in Education.

The program was created in 2010 by Legacies Now, with support from the provincial government as a legacy of the 2010 Winter Games.

This year the idea was taken on and reconceptualized by ArtStarts in Schools, a nonprofit organization that promotes creativity among B.C. students.

Infusion: Arts in Education is a three-year program that aims to incorporate the arts with everyday teaching methods.

"The role of the program is to expand on an approach to teaching that's called arts integration," said Siobhan Rich, marketing and communications manager for ArtStarts in Schools.

"The basic idea of it is taking art outside of the art class and showing that arts can be used to enhance the learning of different subject matters."

George Pringle Elementary principal John McMahon said he and his staff were "thrilled" when they found out they had been selected.

"Bringing the arts into education for the kids is going to bring the curriculum to life," said McMahon.

"It's a little different than sitting in a desk and working on a worksheet."

The elementary school principal noted his staff is keen to utilize arts in the classroom.

"There's a real commitment on the part of the teachers here to have arts as part of daily education—to infuse it and to reach the learning outcome," said McMahon.

During the first year, the six chosen artists meet with teachers, administrators and members of their schools' parent advisory committees to come up with strategies, intentions and goals for future years.

The artists will roll up their sleeves and get in the classrooms during the second year. They will use ideas from the planning stage to lead arts activities for the students.

After observing the artists, the teachers will take over the arts-based practices in the final year of the project while artists help out in the classroom in more of a mentor role.

Vernon artist Paula Scott has been matched with George Pringle Elementary.

She said she's looking forward to the experience.

"I believe in the arts and art integration in schools," said Scott.

"I love working with kids. I love their innocence and the freedom they have to express themselves. They have no limits."

Throughout the first year Scott will be working with principal John McMahon, three teachers and a representative of the George Pringle Elementary parent advisory council to plan and create art integration strategies.

"I know what I can do; I know what my skills are. I need to hear from each of them and (see) what their expectations are and what the school's expectations are."

The Vernon artist is excited to give West Kelowna children a type of education she was never given.

"I went to school in the late 1960s, early 70s. I don't think I ever went to a school where the arts were (considered) important.

"Imagination and creativity are so important as human beings, it's how we expand and learn."

Scott said she was brought up in a home where creativity wasn't encouraged. That restricted her ability to learn about the world and left her often feeling "stuck in a box."

"I didn't actually really start painting until my late 30s after a trip to Ireland.

"Art became therapeutic in a way for me."

A goal of Scott's is to teach students—and show teachers—there's not always just one textbook solution to figuring out problems.

According to Terri Anne Wilson, arts integration manager for ArtStarts in Schools, 60 schools and 85 artists applied to take part in the program.

"We really looked for schools that stood out in terms of their passion and commitment to the arts," said Wilson.

George Pringle Elementary stood out because of its long-term commitment to the concept, she added.

"They were really able to show they were considering all members of their community—students, teachers, administrators, parents and school staff—and that they're prepared to participate in developing and implementing infusion activities over a sustained period of time."

She said arts integration is not a new concept in education, but it has been gaining traction in recent years.

"We all learn in many different ways…the most effective way is to learn in ways we love to learn."


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