North Adams Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Malkas said art education is critical to a student's overall success.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The U.S. Department of Education is helping to strengthen ties between area educators and cultural institutions.
On Thursday, education leaders celebrated the reception of a $740,000 federal grant to support arts-integrated professional development for Berkshire County educators.
"Simply summarized, this grant moves us closer to unleashing the creative potential that I believe is contained in our region," Howard "Jake" Eberwein III, dean of graduate and continuing education at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts said.
"It recognizes that every child and every person is truly an artist."
Representatives from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, the North Adams Public Schools and Berkshire Compact for Education gathered at MCLA Gallery 51 Thursday to present plans to utilize a grant to fund arts-integrated professional development for Berkshire County educators by partnering them with local cultural institutions.
Lisa Donovan, professor of Fine & Performing Arts at MCLA said the program will be rolled out over four years with year one focused on planning and research, years two and three focused on a series of professional development training and collaborations with local cultural organizations where data will be collected from the classroom and year four will be focused on analysis.
Donovan said the program will allow educational and cultural organizations to align and collaborate throughout the county.
"Traveling all around the country and traveling internationally there is no place like this place," she said. "We have unparalleled resources here in terms of art and in terms of education but what is not happening is that we are not connecting the dots."
Arts and general classroom educators who integrate arts into lessons will receive 70 hours of professional development on arts-based strategies. The program is also eyed to build stronger relationships between the cultural institutions and the local schools.
North Adams Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Malkas added that infusing the arts into education as a whole enhances the experience for students and helps them develop stronger motor skills, critical thinking skills and cultural awareness among other benefits.
"We recognize that to really become a productive and inclusive participant in our community we need the arts. And that is coming from a former chemistry teacher," she said. "Arts and education provide us with the vehicle in which we are able to communicate, connect and really develop sympathy, empathy, and compassion."
North Adams Public Schools Curriculum Director Kim Roberts-Morandi said the program will go far beyond art courses and will be integrated across the board at every grade level. She said it will deepen rigor and instruction throughout the schools.
MCLA President James Birge thanked those involved in writing the grant and noted that the program is one of 20 funded throughout the country.
"This grant allows us to enhance professional development in arts education through kindergarten through grade 12," he said.
"It will also help develop the next generation of creative, innovative and thoughtful people…the Department of Education has recognized MCLA and our partners as national leaders in providing expertise in arts education."
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