By Susan Riddell
When Heartland Elementary School (Hardin County) art teacher Bethany Inman wanted to introduce her students to a true Appalachian learning experience, she went to the Kentucky Arts Council Teaching Art Together grant program for help.
“It’s a goal of mine for my students to have a richer experience in cultural arts than what I can provide on my own,” Inman said.
The grant brings teachers and practicing, professional artists together to collaborate on an innovative residency experience. These usually last one to four weeks. The opportunity prepares teachers to incorporate the arts into the curriculum after the residency is completed.
Any Kentucky P-12 teacher or group of teachers may apply for the grant, and the next deadline to apply for a Teaching Art Together grant is April 15.
When Inman committed to the program and went to the Arts Council’s artist directory looking for the right arts discipline, she saw a familiar name. As a student teacher, Inman watched Dianne Simpson teach a lesson on Appalachian basket weaving.
“Dianne is from eastern Kentucky, and the Appalachian culture is her way of life,” Inman said. “I knew that she could provide that authentic experience I wanted for my students.”
Together, Inman and Simpson created two lessons: 5th graders learned how to weave baskets, and 3rd and 4th graders painted wooden quilt blocks to later hang in the school courtyard.
Inman said her students loved the Appalachian experience and were especially excited hearing stories about the Cane Treaty that Union College signed with the Cherokee and how older clothes can be used to make quilts.
They weren’t the only ones who learned something. Inman did, too.
“I now feel more comfortable teaching the history of Appalachian culture and the important role art plays in everyday life, as well as cultural connections Appalachia has with Native American culture,” she said.
Inman said other teachers at Heartland Elementary got involved, too, integrating social studies, reading and writing into Simpson’s time with the school.
Additionally, she said, the lessons taught touched on multiple standards from the Arts and Humanities Program Review.
“Students were engaged in creating and responding to their own work and art from Appalachian culture throughout the residency,” Inman said. “It encompassed many of the demonstrators where I personally had room for improvement, like assessment strategies and collaboration with colleagues and our community.”
Like the program reviews, working with Simpson reinforced to her where arts education is headed in Kentucky, Inman said.
As I was reviewing the new (National Coalition for Core Arts) Standards, I noticed that just like with the Program Review, residencies and other opportunities like those offered by the Kentucky Arts Council are directly aligned with these new initiatives,” she said. “Students were creating artwork, presenting their work in a gallery exhibit and responding to their work. They are also applying what they have learned to other areas and building on the knowledge and skills that they are developing: It’s all there.”
Inman encourages other teachers to take advantage of grant opportunities like she did, and doing so will help keep arts education front and center in Kentucky schools, she said.
“I think initiatives like the Program Review and the National Standards will only help make art programs stronger by holding everyone involved – students, teachers, schools and districts – accountable for improving arts education,” Inman said. “I also firmly believe that because the arts so seamlessly lend to cross-curricular connections and does so in a way that engages students and forces them to be creative, we will see improvements in education in general.”
MORE INFO …
Bethany Inman, firstname.lastname@example.org,