Bringing the Arts Alive Authentically

Kaua’i Pacific School (KPS) recently received the prestigious and coveted Arts Excellence Award from the Hawaii Arts Alliance. This award is meaningful to us because at KPS we believe that children must receive an integrated and holistic education.  What do we mean by that?  When we watch children during unstructured play, we can see that they are natural artists. They move, they draw, they dance, they hum, they make up games – they are naturally and continually creating using their whole bodies. However, in schools, we marginalize this truth. As Sir Ken Robinson so eloquently points out, as children get older we progressively start to educate them more from the waist up…until we are only in their heads.  This is a grave mistake as intelligence lies in our entire body, not just in our heads. Students must learn to integrate their bodies, the hearts and their minds equally if they are to reach their full potential. The arts are a critical component of what we do here and we work very hard to ensure that the arts are integrated into our core program in a variety of ways:

  1. We have designed units of discovery at each grade that facilitate integration of the art.
  2. We hire lead teachers for each class with artistic talents and traits such as drama, pottery, music in their repertoire of skills. We also hire teaching artists to teach our visual and performing arts classes.  The specialty teachers and lead teachers regularly collaborate to plan and design the units of discovery insuring that the arts are integrated in an authentic manner.
  3. We actively enlist the support of the parents who have visual and performing arts backgrounds. They help us out in a myriad of ways including serving as guest speakers, finding projects in the community for us to be a part of and teaching our Wednesday elective courses.
  4. Our students have a specialty program that includes some sort of arts class each day.  This year they have Creative Dance/Storytelling on Mondays; Music on Tuesdays; Visual Art on Thursdays and Hawaiian Studies/Dance on Fridays.  
  5. On Wednesdays, we have an elective program after lunch that includes or has included courses such as advanced music workshop, choir, theatre arts, watercolor, pottery, hip hop, cheerleading, digital media, body movement etc. These are cross-grade classes the students can choose from.
  6. An understanding and appreciation of how digital tools can help us tell richer and more creative stories. The school recently received a multi-year School of the Future grant to create a model for others to draw from.  Our grant is anchored in digital storytelling which blends the arts, storytelling and technology.
  7. We aim to support projects in the wider community that highlight and support the arts. For example, this year we hosted the Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival here on Kaua’i which included screenings targeted to different age groups and animation workshops for children from all the schools on our island. 

I read an anonymous quote recently that said “Most of us go to our grave with our music still inside of us.”  AT KPS, we want to make sure that the music, art, drama and dance within becomes alive and creatively expressed in each and every student and adult that walks through our school doors. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Hawaii Arts Alliance  for continuing to support arts education in schools.

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