For many adults, their fondest memories are from childhood. It is a time to freely sing, dance, and play to express creativity. The Arts Express conference was an opportunity for elementary school teachers to spark their creativity once again.
Through a series of workshops, activities, and keynote addresses, educators not only ignited the child inside of them, but they also learned how to foster creativity and playtime for their students. Each activity was meant to teach elementary educators how to enhance learning experiences by integrating the arts into the curriculum and, at the same time, satisfying Utah Core state standards.
The theme of Arts Express this year was “Roots and Wings.” Each workshop and keynote was centered around the saying, “There are only two lasting things we can hope to give our children. One is roots, the other is wings.”
Children’s book author and storyteller Carmen Deedy opened the conference by relaying her experience as a first-grade Cuban refugee living in Georgia. Immersed in a southern school system, she experienced major culture shock and later learned that she also had dyslexia. She was able to overcome all of these challenges because her teachers invested extra time and energy into helping her succeed.
Deedy said, “The beginning of our story is the end of someone else’s. That’s where the roots come from. And it’s the little things that teachers do that make a big difference in their student’s stories.”
Educators who attended the conference pursued new techniques to foster growth and learning for their students. Workshops were diverse and taught new lesson plans that incorporated dance, music, drama, and visual arts.They included activities such as singing African chants, drumming on exercise balls, creating shadow puppet shows, sculpting figurines for Claymation films, and directing plays that teach science concepts.
A teaching technique highlighted during the conference was to encourage playtime. Keynote speaker Enrique Feldman, accomplished film score musician and author, said “My greatest mentors are four and five-year-olds. They have taught me to play again.”
Feldman offered a variety of activities for teachers. He emphasized the importance of play, music, and dance. Through these exercises, the brain is stimulated in a way that cultivates learning. Feldman believes that “joy is a precursor to authentic learning.”
Educators left the conference with childhood energy flowing through their veins, their minds filled with new ideas, and with useful skills and tools to bring imagination and recreation back into their classrooms.
Writer: Ashley Young
Contact: Shauna Valentine (801) 422-8562