Oklahoma A+ Schools Institute at UCO has a vision to create schools that work for everyone, particularly through arts integration. They are dedicated to igniting imagination, creativity and innovation in students, teachers and schools. The primary way they accomplish this is through professional development programs for educators and schools that encourage effective arts integration teaching methods.
Public, private and charter schools can apply to become an Oklahoma A+ School and, once accepted, these schools are provided with three years of training to help teachers learn to integrate the arts and collaborate across disciplines and even grade levels to enhance the engagement and learning of the entire school. Research has shown that Oklahoma A+ School sites on average show improvement in academics and attendance as well as creating
engaging, joyful learning environments.
Here’s an example of how the arts are integrated across curriculum areas in our network schools: Students would read the book Three Little Pigs and then create a diagram of each of the pigs’ homes identifying the strengths and weaknesses in each. Then students might build structures and test them using a fan to simulate “wind” to bring in science principles. All of this is integrated very intentionally so it is seamless and connected.
What can parents do to encourage their child’s school to learn more? And how can parents and homeschoolers get directly involved with their children and arts integration?
First, if parents believe the arts and creativity are important to learning, Oklahoma A+ Schools Institute encourages parents to follow them on Facebook, visit their website and start sharing information with teachers and
principals. A really exciting part of the OKA+ Network is that it is provided at no cost to member schools – that is a value of over $85,000 in the first three years of support – making it easy for parents to encourage schools to explore the option.
While the OKA+ Schools Network is a premiere project, they do have other opportunities that allow for more direct access for students and parents, such as arts-integrated workshops that a parent might want to participate in or GreA+ Boeing STEAM Challenge videos for students, available on their website. They also have a newly-launched subscription box that promotes arts-integrated learning projects for home. The SAIL (Simply Arts Integrated Learning) Box is a subscription program with a monthly box that features a concept connecting to multiple standards and topics at every grade level, PK through 5th. Integrating arts with topics and standards is proven to increase comprehension and retention. By expanding the ways in which children think, process and learn, students gain a more rounded understanding that encourages them to think more deeply and apply and analyze knowledge. Parents can find more information at okaplus.org/sailbox.