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Twenty-seven teachers from 10 area schools recently explored how to work through trauma using arts integration as part of the ArtsCore Colony’s fourth cohort.

ArtsCore, a partnership between the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, the Paine Art Center and Gardens and regional public-school districts, works to increase retention of pre-service and early career teachers by building competence and resiliency through the knowledgeable, supported and thoughtful use of arts integration.

Stuart Stotts, a frequent presenter at teacher conferences and training around the world, said arts integration requires time for learning, planning and reflection, and time is in short supply with all of the demands teachers face. These barriers can prevent teachers from embracing the arts in the classroom.

“We need safe environments and leaders who encourage and understand the benefits of arts integration. Teachers also need to own their comfort with art forms and allow students greater autonomy,” Stotts said.

Storytelling, which is an excellent conduit for connecting ideas across disciplines, remains at the heart of the colony experience. Designed to be a bit like summer camp, teachers completed a multitude of hands-on learning activities and were immersed in a variety of art forms, including yoga, Shakespeare, drum circles and lunchtime stories.

Elementary education alumnus Sara Leintz ’16, a kindergarten teacher in the Appleton School district, said the three-day experience was more than just singing and dancing.

“ArtsCore programming is about increasing my capacity as a teacher. It is a joy to be learning through this program with a group of like-minded people who want to do what is best for children,” she said.

There is an element of risk to learn and implement new strategies in the classroom. Stotts said to have the time and ongoing funding and support to work throughout the year as a cohort is a rare gift.

“ArtsCore has a committed group of participants. There’s an element of intensity but also fun, support and connection that pervades the experience, and I believe that combination is what leads to deep and lasting learning and educational change,” she said.

Molly Pokwinski, a fourth-grade teacher at Badger Elementary in Appleton, was thankful for the focus on trauma this year.  As a building leader on the school’s positive behavior interventions and support team,  she is always looking for ways they can continue to support staff  in dealing with their own trauma but also in dealing with their students’ trauma that staff carry with them as well.

“I felt like today’s raku activity was a perfect example of something we could bring to our staff members to help us take care of ourselves. The attention to detail this conference provides make these three days truly worthy of our time. I greatly look forward to this year and also the changes I can make in my classroom,” Pokwinski said..

Schools represented at the conference:

  • Adams Friendship High School
  • Appleton: Badger Elementary School, Foster Elementary Charter, Jefferson/Fox River Academy, Johnston Elementary, Richmond Elementary/Highlands Elementary
  • Merrill Middle School
  • Oshkosh: West High School, North High School, UW Oshkosh Children’s Learning Center
  • Waukesha: Summit View Elementary

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