Opening Doors: Arts Integration at Hamilton Elementary

Teacher Development Grant

 2021-2022 Project Summary

Kim Neal Nofsinger

Hamilton Elementary • LaCrosse, WI

Opening Doors is a faculty development project at Hamilton Elementary School in La Crosse, WI and is centered on the use of arts integration. Coordinated by Kim Neal Nofsinger, an arts integration specialist employed half-time at the School of Technology and Arts (SOTA1),also in the LaCrosse school district, this three- year program will provide participating teachers experience using the arts in relation to traditional classroom subjects; resources to enhance and develop curriculum; and access to guest artists for further mentorship. In the fall of 2021, Hamilton will open doors to their building’s new addition allowing it to evolve its identity as a neighborhood school.

The community Hamilton serves is low income and 80% of the students receive free or reduced lunch. This type of school usually does not have funds to support extensive arts education and has a higher than usual achievement gap. Evidence shows arts education can have powerful effects on student achievement. These effects may be most profound for struggling students. Investigators reviewing the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS: 88) database found a significant correlation between arts participation and academic performance. Gains associated with high arts participation were greatest for students in the lowest-socioeconomic-status quartile, those most at risk of academic failure.

Hamilton’s goal when it opens doors to its new addition is also to open doors to instruction using arts integration. To achieve this goal, each year, teams of four Hamilton teachers will work collaboratively with Nofsinger in July and August to develop plans and implement classes.

Hamilton has a year-round calendar and shares its building with SOTA1 which operates on the traditional calendar. The contrasting schedules create a six-week time period during which Nofsinger can work intensively with Hamilton teachers and classrooms. Additionally, during this time extra physical space is available for projects designed for student instruction. Throughout the remainder of the year, teachers will continue to develop projects which use the arts as a part of the instructional practice. Nofsinger will provide mentorship for these teachers, provide resources, and schedule guest artists for residencies.

Through this process, teachers will develop their working knowledge and understand that:

1. Working in the arts helps learners to develop creative problem-solving skills.

2. Teaching through the arts can present difficult concepts visually, making them more easy to understand.

3. Art instruction helps children with the development of motor skills, language skills, social skills, decision-making, risk-taking, and inventiveness.

4. Integrating art with other disciplines reaches students who might not otherwise be engaged in classwork.

5. Arts experiences boost critical thinking, teaching students to take the time to be more careful and thorough in how they observe the world.

6. The arts provide challenges for learners at all levels.

7. Integrated art education connects students with their own culture as well as with the wider world.

Participating teachers will be able to develop the effectiveness of teaching using arts integration and will create lesson plans and instructional strategies to be shared with other teachers virtually or through workshops.

Back to Project Summaries