Students at Kalihi Kai Elementary yesterday showcased their arts-integrated curriculum with the head of artistic excellence, Jane Chu, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). This was the last stop of the chairman's five-day visit to Hawaii, which also included attendance at the 53rd Annual Hawaii Regional Scholastic Art Awards and a visit to Pomaikai Elementary on Maui.
"One thing we love about the arts is that you can celebrate the long established traditions that make the community what it is, and celebrate new ideas at the same time," said Chairman Chu. "The celebrations of the folk and traditional arts in Hawaii are steeped in such wonderful traditions, long established, hundreds and hundreds of years. Hawaii's so special in that area. We also get to honor the new ways of thinking and get our children ready to be the leaders of the next generation."
Chairman Chu stopped in on three classes to observe arts-integrated curriculum in action. A second grade, third grade and music class, each showcased how they use the arts to foster higher-level thinking and keep students engaged and excited.
Kalihi Kai Elementary is one of three Turnaround Arts schools in Hawaii, a program launched by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH). The NEA, among other partners, contributes funds to this program in order to bring arts education into schools.
"Our teachers did an outstanding job embracing and implementing the strategies provided by the Turnaround Arts program," said Laura Vines, principal, Kalihi Kai Elementary. "You can see the difference this program has made in such a short amount of time. Our students are more engaged based on the feedback from our teachers, and this is reflected in our strong attendance numbers."
Chairman Chu shared her personal experience with the arts education and emphasized its importance especially in schools like Kalihi Kai Elementary where 50 percent of the students are English language learners (ELL).
"Many of us came to the arts because it was an equalizer for us," added Chu. "In my case, my parents spoke Chinese and they wanted me to speak English. The arts was a way for me to communicate way beyond everyday conversation. What you're doing for these children is equalizing the playing field."
For more information about the Turnaround Arts program in Hawaii, please check out the stories below.