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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 19, 2001

On Schools
Arts get emphasis at schools

By Alice Keesing
Advertiser Education Writer

There's something of an art revolution going on in Hawai'i's schools.

As early as this fall, students will begin to benefit from a new emphasis on the arts with new resource teachers, new training and new curriculum.

And as students daub, cut-out, act and sing their way through school, educators hope they will enjoy all the new-found benefits of the arts.

Aside from the inherent benefits, a growing body of research shows that exposure to music, drama or dance can actually stimulate brain wiring in young children.

"The studies show that, regardless of economic background, a child who has had an arts education outperformed his or her peers academically, socially and was more healthy," said Marilyn Cristofori, executive director of the Hawai'i Alliance for Arts Education.

Cristofori is one of those behind the recent flurry of activity to remedy what she calls a lack of arts education in local schools.

"The arts need not be marginalized, which is what has happened," she said.

And while the current state of the arts in education is generally less than stellar, Cristofori said Hawai'i is breaking new ground.

Hawai'i is the first state in the nation — and the envy of Mainland arts educators — to have a broad-based partnership between the schools and arts organizations, she said.

The partnership, which resulted from the 1998 Arts Education Conference, includes the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, the Department of Education, the Hawai'i Alliance for Arts Education, the Hawai'i Association of Independent Schools, and the University of Hawai'i colleges of education and arts and humanities.

Their first task was a six-year plan of action. As part of that plan, the Legislature this year provided the money for 12 new art resource teachers in the public schools. These teachers — who have yet to be hired — will work with classroom teachers to inject studies on music, dance, drama and the visual arts into Isle classrooms.

Also, this week about 50 elementary teachers got together with some of the state's leading artists at the ARTS FIRST Institute 2001. The teachers have developed lessons that they can use in their classrooms. They will share the results of their work at next year's institute and so begin to build a body of lessons that teachers around the state can use.

All the work will dovetail with the Department of Education's new fine arts learning standards, which lay out what students should know as they move through the grade levels.

"This is just the beginning," Cristofori said.

Let Alice Keesing know what's going on at your school. You can reach her at 525-8014 or akeesing@honoluluadvertiser.com.