Oturu School, just out of Kaitaia, started trialling this model of learning, assisted by staff from the University of Auckland earlier this year.
Principal Fraser Smith and arts teacher Josie Thomson will present their school’s reasons behind their engagement in arts integration, at the upcoming 7th World Alliance for Arts Education (WAAE) Conference, taking place in Auckland from 22-25 November. The conference’s theme is Engaging with Communities – He hononga Hapori: He Pukenga auaha. It is the first time the conference will be held in New Zealand.
Oturu, a 140-pupil school, has been developing its own kaupapa for creating a unique learning experience for almost two decades. Now the school is going one step further by taking part in a trial to see if applying creative methods to learning has measurable benefits. Arts integration is a process where children learn concepts in all curriculum areas through arts based activities.
The emphasis is on the ‘doing’ and is not about a product or performance. Associate Professor Ralph Buck and researcher Dr Barbara Snook, both from the Dance Studies Programme at the University of Auckland, aided by Assistant Professor Brittany Harker Martin from the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary, are assisting Oturu with the world-leading trial.
Dr Snook has been regularly visiting Northland, to help staff from Oturu with lesson planning as well as running workshops. She also applied Harker Martin’s baseline psychometric testing on a cohort of students aged 7-13. The tests will be applied next year to evaluate this process for learning.
“The feedback from the teachers is already really exciting,” says Dr Snook. “It is inspiring to see arts integration in action within a New Zealand school. The students enjoy their learning and are therefore more engaged. This bears out the extensive research that is available regarding the value of the arts in school classrooms,” she says.
Principal Smith and teacher Josie Thomson will address the WAAE Conference on their school’s experience so far. Smith says “as the school’s teachers become more familiar with the new teaching style, they will be able to adapt the process to fit different subjects. We have begun something enormous,” he says. “It’s the educational shift I have been waiting for.”
The Oturu School community are particularly looking forward to their upcoming visit by art- integrated learning expert Dr Harker Martin at the end of next month, who has done extensive research overseas showing how utilising the arts improves student performance in many areas.