The art of teaching

Budgets are shrinking and people are getting used to the word “less,” but a grant for the Juneau School District just added a whole lot of “more” to the arts.

With the help of a $550,000 grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, the district will begin helping teachers integrate the arts into their curriculums — for every subject and for every grade.

JSD Director of Teaching and Learning Ted Wilson said the program, called “Artful Teaching,” will include training that is place-based and culturally relevant.

“The arts is one way to make the educational experience more engaging for students,” Wilson said.

Time constraints make it hard for teachers to cover multiple subjects within an established “blocked” time period, he said; fusing curriculums is one solution.

In partnership with the University of Alaska Southeast, the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, the Canvas and other community organizations, teachers will have the opportunity to attend classes taught by local art instructors. They will also hear from guest teachers, or “art integration specialists,” from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

“Arts integration is an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form,” according to the Kennedy Center’s website. “Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form and another subject area and meets evolving objectives in both.”

Richard Jenkins, a Kennedy Center cartoonist who authored “Comics in your Curriculum”, will visit the district in March. Melanie Rick, also of the Kennedy Center, will visit in April and works specifically with training teachers to integrate visual art and poetry throughout the K-8 curriculum.

The grant will provide stipends for teachers who dedicate extra time to professional development. UAS will also be offering continuing education credits.

“I think the professional development can be a model to teachers on how to integrate any curriculum,” Wilson said.

The grant funds the program for two years. If it is deemed successful by the grantors, it can be renewed for up to 10 years.

Wilson said the district will hire a person to organize the program with teachers’ schedules. He said the district will begin searching for a project coordinator with an awareness and appreciation for the arts who also has leadership skills.

“This is a very art-rich community,” Wilson said. “There have been a lot of efforts to make sure the arts are kept at the forefront, even in the face of budget cuts. So to have a grant ensure that we’re going to be providing arts education for students is exciting for everyone in Juneau.”

• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or at

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