Conference shows why arts matter

The Arts Matter conference for teacher candidates was held recently, reinforcing the importance of including arts education in the classroom.

The Arts Matter conference for teacher candidates was held recently, reinforcing the importance of including arts education in the classroom.

Three years ago, in the midst of a decline in funding for the arts and subsequent participation in the classroom, Brock education professors Shelley Griffin, Peter Vietgen and Kari-Lynn Winters came up with a vision that would help their teacher candidates further extend experiences in dance, music, drama and visual arts into their teacher education arts curriculum.

Three years later, their annual conference Arts Matter: Integrating the Arts Across the Curriculum is still a success with nearly 200 registrants participating in the two-day workshop held recently at the University.

The conference, designed especially for Brock’s teacher candidates, provides additional instruction in the arts and focuses on their value and integration across the curriculum.

“It’s a really great opportunity for our teacher candidates to engage in the arts outside the context of our courses,” Griffin said. “Knowing and experiencing the power of the arts for their own sake is one of our goals for the conference.”

Keynote speaker Patrice Baldwin, president of the International Drama Theatre and Education Association, World Alliance for Arts Education council member and chair of National Drama, provided her insights into why the arts matter in education before candidates took part in drama and music workshops.

In addition to building knowledge and skill base, the goal of the conference was to enable teacher candidates to feel more confident in the classroom.

“When I was in school, I never really got the opportunity to work with any instruments and part of the reason I think was because my teachers weren’t really educated in music,” participant Joanna Kula said after her music workshop. “I feel confident going into any classroom and implementing my lesson plan.”

Art and dance workshops being held on the second day of the conference, giving participants the opportunity to further develop their arts repertoire, for which participant Stacy Ricci was grateful.

“I think the more you can see the facilitators teach, the better you feel about teaching it yourself,” she said. “Seeing an instructor demonstrate how you can implement these techniques to a room full of kids is so beneficial.”

The response and success of the conference speak to its need, Vietgen noted.

“For me, this conference is now an integral component of the teacher education program,” said Vietgen. “We were fully registered with 200 participants in almost 48 hours – the demand is there. Our students want more time to experience arts education opportunities so that they can pass on their passion not only when they are out practising teaching but also when they have their own classrooms in the future.”

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