Castaic district begins developing Arts Integration Schools

FILE PHOTO: Lacey Davis holds up an onion as she and her 83 third-grade classmates sing about the discovery of gold in Santa Clarita during a performance about the history of Santa Clarita at Northlake Hills Elementary School in Castaic on Wednesday, March 22, 2107. Dan Watson/The Signal

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in an occasional, several-part series looking at arts education in Santa Clarita Valley school districts.

A recent countywide survey from the Los Angeles County Arts Education Collective found that nearly every school in Los Angeles County, and every school in the Santa Clarita Valley, offers its students some kind of arts instruction.

Completed over the course of two years, the survey was completed by 924 schools in 78 districts, and evaluated the quality and quantity of arts education at all grade levels in Los Angeles County’s public schools.

We found that, in general, the quantity of arts education is higher at the elementary level, while the quality of arts instruction is higher at the secondary level,” the survey read.

Only one school in the Castaic Union School District, Castaic Middle School, participated in the survey. However, the school district is working to increase student access to arts education at all levels through classroom learning, outside partnership and arts integrated school designations.

“The impact has been outstanding for our students,” Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Janene Maxon said. “Through partnerships, we have been able to provide a variety of experiences for our students that many might not have the opportunity to experience.”

Arts Instruction

The survey results of Castaic Middle School indicate that all students are offered opportunities in music, theater, visual arts and media arts during the school day, with the most students participating in the arts in eighth grade.

“We have fine arts and practical arts at our middle school, which includes choir, band, guitar, CMS TV, arts history and Math and Arts exploratories,” Maxon said. “Our district follows the CA Arts standards.”

Castaic Middle School students hold up their award for Best Middle School Film at the annual Student Television Network Convention in Anaheim, Calif. from March 28 to March 31, 2017. Courtesy of Ro Osano

Castaic Middle School does not offer after school arts education instruction to its students, but it does provide its students with one Full Time Equivalent (FTE) music instructor and one FTE media arts instructor.

Outside of the survey results, the district’s four schools partner with the SCV K-12 Arts Consortium and the COC PAC for grade-specific assemblies, residencies and bus-in events.

“The LA Opera project is one example, our middle school and our upper grades have participated in an opera at their sites,” Maxon said. “This involved many weeks of training/instructing until the final production was ready for all to see. The students who have participated in this type of opportunity absolutely enjoyed it and became more interested in the opera.”

For the past eight years the Castaic district has also offered its teachers arts integration training through the Kennedy Arts Center’s Partners in Education program. Through the program, staff have brought lessons like shadow puppetry, tableau, poetry and arts in science to the classroom.

“This training shows staff how to integrate the arts in all content areas,” Maxon said. “The training also involves diversity and cultures that our staff take back to share with students as well as reaching many content areas.”

Two of the district’s schools, Castaic Elementary School and Live Oak Elementary School, are moving toward becoming an Arts Integrated School, which means that the schools are training staff to integrate art within the core content curriculum.

FILE PHOTO: Castaic Elementary students walk by the outline of a mural to be completed by artist-in-residence Suzi Kades on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. Kades will spend one week at the school completing a mural for the school. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

In this format, students would use the art of tableau to explain a concept instead of using the traditional paper and pencil approach.

“We have noticed that our students who might not be as engaged have become more engaged using the Arts Integration approach [and] students are performing well in academic areas,” Maxon said.  “It’s a different approach, supportive and not your typical paper-pencil approach.”

Future Goals

Currently, the Castaic district plans to continue to implement its STEAM and Arts Integration approach at both Castaic Elementary and Live Oak Elementary in order to increase student progress and engagement.

“The beauty of arts integration is that teachers are able to use the arts to deliver instruction, informally or formally assess and offer immediate feedback during the lessons,” Maxon said. “Arts Integration also reaches more students and their diverse learning styles.”

FILE PHOTO: Castaic Elementary students react to photos of art in a slideshow presented by artist-in-residence Suzi Kades on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. Kades will spend one week at the school completing a mural for the school. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

The district also hopes to continue offering Arts Integration and STEAM professional development to teachers at all of its school sites.

“We continue to provide music, using a music expert, in our elementary schools, where instruments are introduced and we have after-school choirs. In our middle school we have band, choir and offer a guitar class for students,” Maxon said. “We cover all art genres.”

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