Creativity isn’t an easy thing to measure.

But Dennis Doyle thinks putting artists into classrooms is a sure way to bring out the natural creative talents in children. As a former school principal, superintendent and now executive director of Collaborations: Teachers and Artists (CoTA), he’s said he’s seen evidence that integrating art can also raise student achievement.

Schools seeking to make their classrooms more creative spaces have a chance to compete for $600,000 in professional development grants from CoTA, a nonprofit that seeks to help teachers incorporate arts into their instruction.

The grant is aimed at building critical-thinking skills through arts-infused learning. The grant targets the state’s new Common Core standards being implemented beginning this fall, which aim to boost students’ problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.

The grant program isn’t new, but the tie-in to the Common Core standards is.

The program has already created collaborations between artists and more than 600 teachers and 13,500 students at 26 schools since 1998. According to researchers from UC San Diego and University of San Diego who have studied its impacts, the program has brought:

• Student growth in critical-thinking skills
• Students who were more motivated to work diligently and cooperate during the arts activities
• Progress on English Language Arts Benchmark Assessments among second- and third-graders
• Increased confidence among teachers in teaching arts and a greater propensity to integrate the arts into their teaching

Three schools will be selected for a three-year program. During the first two years, classroom teachers and teaching artists will work together in a weekly collaboration, documenting their methods and its impacts on students. The artistic component is first led by the teaching artist, but gradually handed over to the teacher. By the third year, teachers will design the units of instruction, while the artists transition to a support role.

CoTA’s strategy, said Doyle, is not to create artists-in-residence, but rather to develop arts-rich instructional strategies among classroom teachers, who can be trained and continue long after the teaching artist is gone.

As the teacher’s methodology begins to change by introducing the arts, Doyle said, he or she “begins to see her students in a different way.”

Teaching artists who have participated in the past include actors, puppeteers, painters, photographers, dancers and literary artists.

All San Diego County public elementary schools are eligible to compete for the grants.

The deadline to apply for the CoTA grant competition is Sept. 12. More information can be found at here.

Christie Ritter

Christie Ritter is a freelance writer for Voice of San Diego, author of four books and a former newspaper reporter. She is a graduate of Clairemont High,...

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