Published on Brock University (http://brocku.ca)
When it comes to the classroom, there is perhaps no more precious commodity than the arts.
Amidst a steady decline in funding and subsequent participation of the arts in the classroom, a group of dedicated, passionate faculty members – including this year’s coordinators Drs. Shelley Griffin, Peter Vietgen, Kari-Lynn Winters and Rodger Beatty – have successfully designed and executed a conference that allows Brock teacher candidates the opportunity to extend their knowledge in dance, music, drama and visual arts.
Now in its 4th year, the conference is still running strong, bringing in close to 200 participants each year, along with several arts practitioners, a prominent keynote speaker and an inspiring arts performance.
On Oct. 24, students were welcomed to the opening day of the conference with remarks from the conference coordinators, the Dean of Education, Fiona Blaikie – a passionate educator when it comes to the arts in the classroom – and a keynote by Dr. David Booth, Professor Emeritus, Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto.
Dr. Booth gave a moving keynote address and had the audience hanging on every word and photo; incorporating the use of visuals to accompany his speech. He relayed stories of classrooms he had been in, working with children and shared his experiences of dealing with students who were engaged in the arts without even knowing it.
As day one moved forward, visual arts and dance workshops were attended in both the morning and afternoon and employed students to work as individuals and as part of a team – a concept that ran throughout all the workshops.
Over and above the instruction students were provided in how to incorporate the technical aspects of teaching the arts in their classrooms, the practitioners also provided knowledge on how to make the arts inclusive to all.
“It’s been really inspiring,” said teacher candidate Danielle Gaspar. “It’s helped make teaching the arts very easy.”
Day two of the conference began with a powerfully moving performance by Leslie McCurdy entitled The Spirit of Harriet Tubman. Performed solo, with minimal props, McCurdy captivated the audience and impressed many, leaving many teacher candidates to begin their day with an inspired approach.
Drama and music were the subjects on tap for the second day of the conference, and once again, students quickly realized the impact that arts has on the classroom, but also on their abilities to integrate them into their own instruction.
“I didn’t know what to expect and it’s been very interesting,” said teacher candidate Johnathon McDermid. “[This conference] gives you confidence to do things that aren’t necessarily natural to you and being a teacher you’re in front of your students and if you aren’t engaging and confident you’ll lose them.”
As the conference came to a close, students felt that spending two days at a conference such as this was a valuable experience that taught them how to be confident, assertive and to approach teaching the arts with passion.
“I would definitely recommend this conference [to students next year who are thinking of attending],” said Gaspar. “You will take away far more than you would ever expect.”