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Education leaders discuss methods of using arts education to improve their schools

As public education continues to focus more on standardized testing, school leaders are working hard to integrate the arts into students’ daily learning. On November 14, 2017, education leaders are invited to attend the Learning Edge Conference at the Provo Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, where they will learn about some of the best ways to incorporate the arts in their schools. 

Lois Hetland

The McKay School’s Center for the Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling (CITES), in collaboration with administrators from BYU’s five partner school districts, has put on this conference for four years. Each year it has a different focus, either arts education or gifted and talented students. This year, it’s the arts. 
Barry Graff, assistant director over professional development for CITES, explained that this year’s conference, which is themed “The Arts: A Renaissance of Relevance,” is meant to demonstrate how the arts can enhance the overall academic program of a school.
The keynote speaker, Lois Hetland, is an art education professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She is an affiliate of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. According to Cally Flox, who is the associate director of CITES over arts education, Hetland will share her research of visual arts education, particularly the Studio Thinking framework and how to assess soft skills like creativity, persistence, and critical thinking.
“[The conference] is a great opportunity to bring a national voice about arts education and the value of the arts to our local principals and administrators,” said Flox. “We have some of the most committed educators here in Utah, and when we bring them high quality information based on some of the best research in the country, they can put it into practice immediately to benefit our students.”
Although the Learning Edge Conference is designed for school administrators, such as principals, assistant principals, and district office administrators, principals are encouraged to bring a teacher leader from their school. People from all over Utah come to the conference, but it’s especially targeted for those from the five districts of the BYU–Public School Partnership: Alpine, Jordan, Nebo, Provo City, and Wasatch County. 
“It’s always gratifying to see everyone playing together on the same team and supporting each other and meeting the needs and goals of the partnership, one of which is simultaneous renewal,” Graff said. “We can’t get better without the schools and the schools can’t get better without us, so we get better together.”
These principles are what inspired a private donor to fund the Learning Edge Conference. Don Hicken wanted to honor his wife, Mima, who was a teacher in Wasatch County School District, by setting up an endowment that would continue to improve schools for teachers and students. Because Mima loved integrating the arts into her classroom, Don decided to put the endowment toward the arts. 
“There’s a lot of pressure in education on the tested subjects, and to have a donor provide financial assistance so that marginalized [curricula] can maintain a voice and maintain a presence in education is really important,” explained Flox. “This conference happens because of a private donor.”
As education leaders work together to apply the arts in their schools, they will find that arts education can be a powerful tool for enriching student learning across curricula.
Those who are interested in attending the conference can register here by November 5. Click here for the conference schedule and other details. 

Writer: Leah Barton
Contact: Cindy Glad (801) 422-1922

Photo credit:, CITES