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Visual and Performing Arts

The Arts in Prisk's STEAM Program

Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

Here at Prisk Elementary, we recognize that every student who enters our doors from TK/Kinder level, all the way up to 5th grade, have the innate, inborn ability to be creative, imaginative individuals.  It is our most fervent desire that this creative spark be unlocked and allowed to flourish, in a stimulating and nurturing environment that encourages individual growth and exploration in the Arts.

It is towards this ultimate goal that we are  investing in all our children’s futures, through a myriad of programs available to ensure a positive outcome in every student’s artistic pursuits.

The following are shining examples of Prisk Elementary’s commitment to the Arts, as we move along the development continuum as a S.T.E.A.M. School of the future.

Prisk Elementary and California State University at Long Beach, an artistic partnership.  This program is now in its 3rd year of existence at Prisk.  This is a very strong art program formed and initiated at Prisk in collaboration with the Art Education Department at CSULB.

This is a win-win situation for both institutions, with the under graduate students of CSULB earning credits towards their teaching credentials by visiting Prisk Elementary, and volunteering their time and talents to teach our students.  Prisk students get around 8-10 weeks of intensive art-specific instruction integrated with other curricular themes and standards.  This program requires the students of CSULB continually collaborate with Prisk teachers to ensure that the art units of study harmonize with other key elements of the S.T.E.A.M. program (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and curriculum. There are additional plans in place for future Arts exhibitions and installations of CSULB students at Prisk, and reciprocal shows at CSULB, showcasing our student’s art.  All of this works into Prisk’s goal of exposing and empowering students to and through the world of the Arts.

Here at Prisk, the students have additional opportunities to participate in the Arts.  There are several after school programs that either currently exist, or are in the works for next academic year, 2017-2018.  Art Innovators is a group of dedicated individuals who come once a week to our school and teach are in our dedicated art studios to students in an after-school setting.  In addition to this, plans for next year include opening up the art studios at least every other school day for after school use with a “hands-on” mentoring program.  Students who have a project they want to start or complete (such as Reflections), using the studio space, materials, and/or the expertise of our volunteers, parents/mentors, will be welcomed and encouraged to make use of our facilities to realize their artistic vision. There are also plans to involve our students in the Dramatic Arts as well with M.Y.A.R.T. (Musical Youth Art Repertory Theatre) to sponsor an after school program allowing our students to showcase their singing, dancing, and acting talents through a series of intensive “hands-on” workshops.

Creative Expressions

The Arts Integrated 

The importance of art for all children has been proven by research, practice and the increasing advocacy to integrate those experiences in the daily learning environment. The benefits of art in children’s lives has far-reaching advantages that surpass the child, their family and the school.   MaryAnn Kohl, an arts educator and author of numerous books about children’s art education speaks to the inventiveness that art gives children that last through adulthood. She reminds us that, “the kind of people society needs to make it move forward are thinking, inventive people who seek new ways and improvements, not people who can only follow directions,” says Kohl. “Art is a way to encourage the process and the experience of thinking and making things better!”


Over the last several years researchers, college professors and school districts have dedicated their studies to art in education.  Numerous studies have demonstrated amazing benefits of integrating art and art media in daily learning experiences. Students who do not have access to art classes (dance, music, theater, drawing and sculpture) may not only miss out on key creative outlets, but might also face greater difficulty mastering core subjects, higher dropout rates and more disciplinary problems (Center For Online Education). In addition, the Center for Online Education has highlighted 10 outstanding studies on the arts in education (provided below).  

While school districts might be tempted to think the arts a frivolous part of the educational system, this report suggests otherwise. It looked at over 62 different studies from 100 researchers, spanning the range of fine arts from dance to the visual arts. In 2002, it was the first report of its kind to look at the impact of art on academic performance. Using this data, researchers determined that students who received more arts education did better on standardized tests, improved their social skills and were more motivated than those who had reduced or no access. While researchers at the AEP admitted that art isn’t a panacea for what ails struggling schools, the study led them to believe it could be a valuable asset for teaching students of all ages — especially those in poor communities or who need remedial education. With so many online colleges for design options, students in every demographic can pursue a higher education. An updated report with consistent results was conducted by the same researcher in 2010.

The study was the result of a pilot program through the Guggenheim called Learning Through Art, which sent artists into schools to teach students and help them create their own masterpieces. Kids who took part in the program performed better on six different categories of literacy and critical thinking skills than those who did not. While students did better on an oral exam, they did not on standardized, written literacy tests — a disparity researchers said could exist because they did not emphasize written communication in the program. Program organizers believe the improvements were the result of students learning valuable critical thinking skills while talking about art, which could then be applied to understanding and analyzing literary materials. Students could even take these skills further at online colleges for creative writing or broadcast journalism.

Winner and Hetland head up an arts education program called Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, so they are by no means opponents of creative expression. Yet in their 2000 study, they found little academic improvement in math, science, and reading in their arts education program enrollees. While the backlash from their report was swift and brutal, the researchers stuck by their findings. And for good reason. They believe it shouldn’t matter whether or not art courses improve test scores or grades, and that art education should garner support for what it offers on its own merit — not in relationship to anything else. Regardless, their study did reveal that arts education has some larger benefits which can’t be easily quantified through test scores. Namely, it helps students improve visual analysis skills, learn from mistakes, be creative and make better critical judgments.

A bold assertion, but not one without merit. Students from lower income families often get little exposure to the arts if they are not provided by schools. The report shows that arts education can help close the gap between socioeconomic groups, creating a more level playing field between children who may not be exposed to these enrichment experiences outside of school and some of their more privileged peers.

People have been so wrapped up in showing how arts education benefits students, many haven’t stopped to consider how it also impacts educators. The report studied students at 12 New York, Connecticut, Virginia and South Carolina schools to compile their results. Not only were students at schools with high levels of art education earning higher scores on critical thinking tests, but teachers also seemed happier. Part of the increase in their satisfaction was a result of their charges, who were found to be generally more cooperative and expressive and enjoy a better rapport with educators. That wasn’t all, however, as teachers at schools that emphasized arts education enjoyed greater job satisfaction, were more interested in their work and likely to be innovative and pursued personal development experiences. It’s not a trivial finding, as what is good for instructors is often very good for their students as well. This is something those at online colleges for education should keep in mind.

Taking a look at the role of arts education in New York public schools, this report found that schools with the lowest access also had the highest dropout rates. Conversely, those with the highest graduation rates also had the greatest access to arts education and resources. While there are undoubtedly a number of other factors that play into graduation rates, the research in this study and others like it (most notably The Role of the Fine and Performing Arts in High School Dropout Prevention) has found that many at-risk students cite participation in the arts as their reason for staying. Participation in these activities has a quantifiable impact on levels of delinquency, truancy and academic performance.

Arts education may not just help raise test scores, but also the learning process itself, as a recent study revealed. This report on the Maryland school system found that skills learned in the visual arts could help improve reading and the counterparts fostered in playing an instrument could be applied to math.  Researchers and school officials believe that arts education can be a valuable education reform tool, and classroom integration of creative opportunities could be key to motivating students and improving standardized test scores. Taking it a step further, online colleges in Maryland, for example, are creating post-secondary education opportunities for students in the state.

Using data submitted by the state’s public schools, the Missouri Department of Education and the Missouri Alliance for Arts Education compiled this report. They found that arts education had a significant effect on the academic and social success of their students. Those with greater arts participation were more likely to come to class, avoid being removed and graduate. Additionally, they demonstrated greater proficiency in mathematics and communication. Many have aspired to online colleges in Missouri, or other states. Similar studies of other statewide education systems have discovered nearly identical results.

While proponents of arts education have long asserted that creative training can help develop skills translating into other areas of academics, little research had been done to investigate the scientific component. Aspects of training in the arts, like motor control, attention and motivation, were studied by researchers who participated in the report, with some interesting results. In one four-year study, students undertaking regular music training were found to have changes in their brain structures helping them transfer their motor skills to similar areas. Another found students motivated to practice a specific art form and spent time with focused attention increased the efficiency of their attention network as a whole, even when working in other areas of study — and it improved their fluid IQ scores. Other studies reported similar scientific findings on the arts’ impact on the brain, showing that sustained arts education is can be essential part of social and intellectual development.

Many of the problems that plagued arts education programs in schools ten years ago are still major issues today, this survey revealed. Middle school students across the nation haven’t seen an increase in access to music and visual arts education, and their understanding of its tenets remains low — especially in certain disenfranchised socioeconomic and racial groups. Many believe the numbers are even worse today, as the survey was conducted prior to the economic woes that have paralyzed many schools systems in recent years. As in 1997, the 2008 survey showed that only 47% of students had access to visual arts education, and just 57% to music education. The survey attempted to look at theater and dance programs, but since so few schools offer them, they were dropped from the study.


Art is important because it incorporates all the developmental domains in child development and education.  Art lends itself to physical development and the enhancement of fine and gross motor skills.  All manipulative movements involved in art help develop hand and finger muscles that are needed to properly hold and use a pencil.  

Art activities also help children’s social and emotional development. Children learn about themselves and others through art activities. Friedrich Froebel, the father of kindergarten, believed that young children should be involved in both making their own art and enjoying the art of others. To Froebel, art activities were important, not because they allowed teachers to recognize children with unusual abilities, but because they encouraged each child's "full and all-sided development" (Froebel, 1826). It’s an opportunity for children to make a personal statements about their uniqueness through art while allowing them to express happiness, joy, and pride. 

Art builds decision making abilities for children. According to a report by Americans for the Arts, art education strengthens problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. The experience of making decisions and choices in the course of creating art carries over into other parts of life. “If they are exploring and thinking and experimenting and trying new ideas, then creativity has a chance to blossom,” says MaryAnn Kohl.

Art also enhances children’s cognitive development which can help children with their math, science engineering and technology skills. When art is integrates with the usual curricula Academic Performance improves.  Studies show that there is a correlation between art and other achievement. A report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day on three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate.

The Environmental Rating Scale Assessment developed by Harms, Clifford and Cryer focus on offering children the ability to utilize art materials for  “individual expression” meaning that the children have the opportunity to select either the medium (materials used) or the topic (what is created) if not both. If children are provided with blue paper, glue sticks and some cotton balls and are told to make the clouds in the sky (even if there is no teacher example to look at) this is a project because children were not able to choose either the medium or the topic.


Every day educators, parents and children experience the enormous benefits of art education.  Unfortunately, each year many schools and districts cut vital funds and services to their art programs leaving no other alternative than to cancel the program or close the program.  It is important for educators, parents and policy makers to remain vigilant and proactive in their advocacy to keep the and strengthen art and art media experiences for all children. A Scholastic article reports that “parents and (teachers) need to be aware that children learn a lot more from graphic sources now than in the past,” as stated by Dr. Kerry Freedman, Head of Art and Design Education at Northern Illinois University. “Children need to know more about the world than just what they can learn through text and numbers. Art education teaches students how to interpret, criticize, and use visual information, and how to make choices based on it.” Knowledge about the visual arts, such as graphic symbolism, is especially important in helping children become smart consumers and navigate a world filled with suggestive marketing logos. There are many organizations, museums, individuals and corporations ready to partner with schools to advocate for more art in educational experiences.  

It’s extremely important to make your art activities open-ended and process oriented because we don't want to stifle children's individual creativity. Children have their own thoughts and ideas of how things should look and they come to art with their own unique experiences. Open-ended experiences are successfully oriented because there’s no one right way to do something. Open-ended art activities are motivating for children of all developmental abilities. Ensuring process-oriented art experiences build feelings of independence, confidence and an eagerness to learn. 
It has been proven that involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork. A 2005 report by the Rand Corporation about the visual arts argues that the intrinsic pleasures and stimulation of the art experience do more than sweeten an individual's life -- according to the report, they "can connect people more deeply to the world and open them to new ways of seeing," creating the foundation to forge social bonds and community cohesion. Additionally, strong arts programming in schools helps close a gap that has left many a child behind: From Mozart for babies to tutus for toddlers to family trips to the museum, the children of affluent, aspiring parents generally get exposed to the arts whether or not public schools provide them. Low-income children, often, do not. "Arts education enables those children from a financially challenged background to have a more level playing field with children who have had those enrichment experiences,'' says Eric Cooper, president and founder of the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education.
Finally, art should be an everyday activity.  It is important because it allows children to be creative, unique individuals. Each piece of clay pinch, poked and manipulated or watercolor spread on a canvas is individual and original to each child. Art is open-ended and all work can and should be honored. 

Art Experiences for First Grade

  • Working with tempera -
  • Introducing primary colors of red, yellow and blue.
  • Developing secondary and tertiary colors
  • Complete the color wheel chart
  • Inventing names for colors
  • Introducing easel painting
  • Introducing variety of papers to paint on or with
  • Providing children with paintbrush varieties and sizes
  • Bring together other mediums to create with tempera paints
  • Permanent markers
  • Crayon colors
  • Pastels
  • Drawing pencils
  • Colored pencils

Integrated Areas and Learning Domains


  • Attributes
  • Classification
  • Conservation
  • Data
  • Graphs
  • Estimates
  • Identify properties
  • Patterns
  • Seriation
  • Sorting
  • Property
  • Predict
  • Quantification

Language Arts:

  • Characterization
  • Point of view
  • Imagery
  • Dialogue
  • Mood
  • Listening and speaking
  • Describing
  • Reasoning
  • Requesting
  • Predicting
  • Commenting
  • Problem-soling
  • Seeking new information
  • Greeting

Physical Skills:

  • Fine motor development
  • Large motor development
Visual Arts Journey @ Prisk (By Kisha W.)
OC Opera at Prisk December 2015
OC Opera at Prisk December 2015