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Guest Blog Post: Why Our School Chose Progressive Arts Alliance

A parent and student work on an art activity at a recent family arts meets academics night hosted by PAA at Dunbar.

A parent and student work on an art activity at a recent family arts meets academics night hosted by Progressive Arts Alliance at Paul L. Dunbar Arts Enrichment Academy.

By: Sofia Piperis, Principal
Paul L. Dunbar Arts Enrichment Academy
Cleveland Metropolitan School District

This spring, our school’s faculty and administration decided that we would like to implement an arts-infused curriculum model. We saw this strategic decision as the best option to effectively engage students and to make their learning meaningful. We were also interested in differentiating our school from other schools in our Ohio City neighborhood.

We chose Progressive Arts Alliance as our partner to implement our new arts-infused model because of PAA’s comprehensive approach to arts-integration. Our team was impressed with the strategic methodology PAA implements that includes instruction that address math, science, and other core curriculum standards as well as standards in the fine arts. We were excited to bring PAA in as experts to tie the arts into the academics at our school. Our teaching staff is new to an arts-infused approach to teaching and we believe working with PAA’s professional artist-educators is the perfect way to model what high quality arts-integrated teaching and learning can look like.

As we’ve been implementing our new PAA partnership this fall, it’s been great to see how much our faculty, students, and families appreciate the access to PAA’s high quality arts learning activities. I’ve also been pleased to see how PAA’s work provides the opportunity for our students to apply their learning in the core curriculum to the artistic process. By working in an arts-integrated environment, our students are able to see how their learning in other subjects can be worthwhile in a variety of contexts. PAA has empowered our students to apply their learning and understanding in more modalities than ever before.

Dunbar sixth graders work with PAA Artist-Educator Ainsley Buckner during a recent residency workshop.

Dunbar sixth graders work with PAA Artist-Educator Ainsley Buckner during a recent workshop. The workshop was part of a PAA arts-integration residency exploring the structure of molecules through creating molecular relief models using clay and other materials.

One of the other reasons we chose PAA as our arts partner is their holistic approach to engaging the entire school community in their work. PAA has helped us involve our students’ families in our new arts-infused model. Engaging our families in this work is crucial. Parents don’t always know the depth of what students are working on in the classroom. Through hosting family programming with PAA, we have connected parents with our arts-infused curriculum. Our parents have participated in activities that have allowed them to create new art and build large-scale work side-by-side with their children. We have been pleased with PAA’s ability to better connect our families to our school curriculum.

The changing landscape of education puts a strong emphasis on standards-based performance assessments and as a result, students often don’t have an outlet for self-expression. The arts are the perfect way in which students can express themselves in a manner in which no one can say what’s “right” or “wrong.” The arts provide a platform for freedom of self-expression and bring joy back to learning and collaborating. I am pleased that my school has made access to the arts a priority for our students and we’re proud to work with PAA to transform our students’ learning experience as a result.

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