South-Western Subject Matter: Creative thinking ensures students enjoy the arts

Bradford Faust
South-Western City School District

For many, the arts have been a source of comfort and solace when the world around us appears to spin out of control. This pandemic has shuttered or limited many of our favorite venues for music, art and theater. Like so many organizations, schools have had to limit what is usually a very busy fall season full of marching bands, visual-art shows, orchestra concerts and theater productions. 

Our SWCSD community is committed to the arts and continues to provide support in any way possible during these challenging times. Our staff works with parents and booster organizations to create appropriate social-distancing and safety measures to be able to provide opportunities for students with limited audience members enjoying the arts. Below are some of the many learning activities being offered in our school buildings:

Bradford Faust

Drama clubs are meeting online and in person, following safety protocols, to develop a variety of productions involving revue-style productions with monologues, TV episodes in the style of “The Office” to create a cast/crew podcast and a ‘day in the life’ pandemic-version vlog, and musical performances with limited audiences and livestreamed productions.

Choirs are planning concerts and cabaret-style performances that could look different from those in the past but still provide the students with the training and opportunities to perform in front of limited audiences of family and friends. On remote days, students utilize paper keyboards and practice tracks to learn the notes and rhythms for their parts so they can be sung together on in-person days. Several of the performing ensembles in grades 6-12 are using a digital music-theory program created by two of their colleagues to further develop the skills of their students in a self-paced manner. 

Marching bands were able to have successful, modified performance seasons at football games and in showcase events. The blended-learning model has provided band and orchestra students the opportunity to strengthen their independent musicianship and ensemble skills. Directors have been able to provide more personalized feedback to students. They currently are working on ways to provide socially distanced performances to limited audiences. 

Secondary school art classes are utilizing the flipped-learning model, placing lessons and demonstrations in EdPuzzle for students to interact with independently, thereby freeing up in-person class time for art making. This allows students to go to class knowing what they will be creating.

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Elementary school students are being introduced to music from around the world and different genres, as well as being afforded opportunities to play instruments and sing (following the appropriate social-distancing and cleaning protocols) to further develop their understanding and demonstration of rhythm patterns, pitch patterns, tempo and dynamics. Using a digital platform, students also are able to compose their own music using everyday items found at home to create instruments. Teachers are able to focus on which topics could be taught online and which would be best taught in person.

Art in the Virtual Learning Academy has challenged students to be creative in ways that provide choice and don't necessarily require traditional art materials. Students have used rocks, sticks, Legos, old wood and cardboard to create art projects. Students often are encouraged to utilize other recyclable materials in and around their home to create art. They continue to learn about great artists and their works, as well as be challenged to use what they have learned about these artists and their styles to create their own personal artwork.

The collective creative thinking of our staff ensures that our students continue to enjoy their studies of the arts both in school and at home.

Bradford Faust is the South-Western City School District's assistant superintendent of curriculum.