Spelling, says Megan Shada, is her favorite subject. It didn't
used to be, the earnest fifth-grader explains, but that's changed.
Why? "Because of sculpture," she answers quickly, looking a bit
surprised that the question need even be asked.
Spelling and sculpture. It may sound like an odd pairing, but at
the Kenwood Elementary School in Kearney, Neb., the intertwining of
art and academics is nothing unusual. Here students learn about
shapes from the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, farm animals from the
paintings of Grandma Moses, and basic concepts of physics while
designing mobiles inspired by Alexander Calder.
Art is expected to enlighten all the learning that goes on at
and a network of other schools that are taking part in an ambitious
experiment in arts education.
"It's a holistic approach," says Vicki Rosenberg, senior program
officer for the Getty Institute for the Arts in Los Angeles, which
sponsors the program. It teaches schools to "place art at the very
core of the curriculum."
After decades of neglect, the notion of the essential nature of
arts education is winning fresh support in many schools. The Getty
program reflects the deep-seated belief of many arts advocates that
giving art a central place in a school's curriculum enhances
creativity, stimulates student interest, and provides a glue that
connect seemingly disparate disciplines.
But a discipline-based approach like that supported by the Getty
goes a step further.
While some schools focus on either the creation of art by
students, or on exposing students to the art of others, advocates of
disciplined-based arts education (DBAE) say such approaches don't go
nearly far enough. They believe that arts education should include
art making, art criticism, art history, and aesthetics, and that
these disciplines, to the extent possible, should be incorporated
into lessons throughout the school day.
That's why the Getty has spent more than $10 million over the past
decade to set up six regional centers in Nebraska, California,
Tennessee, Texas, Florida, and Ohio to promote DBAE in both public
and private schools.
While the Getty estimates that it has now offered assistance or
support in establishing DBAE to schools in about 500 districts
nationwide, Kenwood Elementary is one of only 35 schools in the
country partnering with Getty in a DBAE effort that has included
the creation of a curriculum and the training of teachers.
(Of those 35, 18 are also receiving funding from the Annenberg
Foundation in Saint David, Pa. The Annenberg contribution to the
project is expected to reach $4.5 million by 2001.)
Huddling with Van Gogh
At Kenwood, the program is now midway through its second year. In
kindergarten, students huddle around paintings by Vincent van Gogh
they explore questions about feelings and identity. ("How does
'Starry Night' make you feel?" "Why did Van Gogh paint his own
picture? How would you paint yours?")
A second-grade class studying the history of the Southwestern
United States ponders a diorama depicting a native ceremony
indigenous to that area. …