Arts are key to success at KCMO charter school

Kindergarten Town Hall 2021: Integrated Arts Academy
Kindergarten Town Hall 2021: Integrated Arts Academy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s not unusual to see all the desks at Academy for Integrated Arts pushed against the walls with students dancing in the middle of the room during a science lesson.

In fact, during a lesson about clouds, fourth grade students at the pre-K through sixth grade charter school in Kansas City, Missouri, stood in positions to recreate the shape of clouds with their bodies.

Cirrus clouds were tall, stratus clouds were low and layered.

“You don’t have to just sit around and be bored, you can just move around,” said LaMarieyon, a student in the class.

When the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released its annual performance reports this year, nearly every school had a lower score — partly because the state changed the way it calculated the scores.

The commission of education encouraged the public to “focus less on the APR score and more on the underlying data.”

Tricia DeGraff, executive director at AFIA, says data shows students at her school are above average for growth in English language arts and math. DeGraff believes growth is one of the most important measuring sticks for success.

”We have to do everything we can to accelerate learning. We believe, and we see proof, that arts integration accelerates learning and makes it more joyful,” DeGraff said.

She credits the school’s approach of integrating art into core subjects as a reason for the students’ success. Harlan Brownlee agrees.

Brownlee regularly visits AFIA to lead lessons for students and teachers. His work with KC Young Audiences and Focus 5 connects him with schools around the country.

“This is a way to approach teaching where students are going to construct and demonstrate their understanding of an idea through the art form,” Brownlee said.

AFIA celebrates its 10th anniversary this school year. Leaders are planning a celebration before summer break.

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