Arts Integration/Exploration Workshop Held
by Rebekah Bonney, University Relations Intern

A group of teachers giggled as they swept a pile of colorful foam cutout scraps off the table and onto the floor. It was the aftermath of a feverish race to create a representation of the houses of straw, sticks and bricks from “The Three Little Pigs” story, an exercise in a workshop sponsored by the Southeastern Center for Education in the Arts (SCEA).

SCEA, a nationally recognized professional development institute based on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus, has been helping educators from across the region understand the nature of art and its various forms since 1988.

“My favorite part is seeing all the wonderful ways art can be integrated into everyday problems,” Patti Wingate, reading intervention teacher for first and second grade at LaMar Reese School of Arts, said. “One of the things mainly required in our school is training for the arts teachers. It is one of the reasons why we’re here.”

SCEA is funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Arts Commission and The National Endowment for the Arts. The workshops are held annually to help teachers create and understand arts and ultimately use these exciting concepts in the classroom.

“Most of the people are not originally focused on art, so in some cases this is their first art experience,” Kim Wheetley, SCEA Director, said. The level of camaraderie and the ease with which everyone made friends was astonishing. “Everyone seems to have bonded the first day,” Wheetley said.

Teachers and school administrative personnel from all over the southeast attended this year’s SCEA Arts Integration and Exploration workshop. The workshop hosted a total of 33 people: 13 teachers from Tennessee, 14 teachers from Georgia, one teacher from South Carolina and one choral director from Alabama. Four principals from schools in Georgia also attended.

“I’m glad we get a chance to do all the arts, not just focus on one all week," Lis Donaldson, fourth-eighth grade director of eight choral groups in Montgomery, Alabama, said. Susan Parks, first-fifth grade art specialist who teaches at several Cleveland City Schools, agreed. “It’s neat here because you get to network with people in different fields of study and compare standards and similarities of concepts you teach. That’s not an opportunity you normally get.”

The workshops are taught by a staff comprised of SCEA and surrounding art schools. Joel Baxley, SCEA Visual Arts Institute Director at UTC, said the experience was very rewarding. “It’s nice to talk to a group of people and get their input on how they’re applying things,” he said. “A summer workshop like this is a good starting point, but we want to go beyond that to long-term professional development.”

Toward that end, SCEA is developing a program that aims to reach city schools throughout the year, providing an art instructor to act as a sort of mentor for the schools art program. “We’ve learned from research and work that the effect of the workshops is greater if we go into the schools and work with their own curriculum,” Wheetley said.

Leslie Knighton, a fifth-grade science teacher at West Side Magnet School in LeGrange, Georgia, discovered exciting new ways to help children learn. “Getting children to write is always tough, but here at the workshop they give us great tools to help them learn how to write,” Knighton said.