Local News

Arts teach children reading, writing, arithmetic

Posted November 1, 2009 8:20 a.m. EST
Updated June 4, 2013 5:36 p.m. EDT

Project Education: Edutopia, a partnership between WRAL-TV and the George Lucas Educational Foundation, has uncovered an elementary school where an arts-based curriculum is raising test scores.

Corbett Elementary School in Tuscon, Ariz., has adopted the OMA, or Opening Minds through the Arts, program. Teachers use the arts to enhance instruction in math, reading, writing, science and social studies.

"Opening Minds through the Arts is an academic program that infuses the arts," Corbett Elementary Principal Joyce Dillon said. "Because we align it with the state standards, it gives another way for the brain to connect to what children are learning."

OMA is based on neurological research that shows that primary grades are a critical time for students' brain development and for laying the foundation for children to do more complex learning in later grades.

At Corbett, classical music helps kindergartners learn to listen, and first-graders practice writing about operas that professional singers volunteer to perform for them. Dance teaches second-graders about geometry, and playing the violin teaches four-graders lessons about science.

"Usually when you learn, you read it about it out of the textbooks. But when you act out stuff and talk about stuff, it really helps you learn better," student Cheyenne said.

The success of OMA has been so dramatic that even as school spending is being cut, the OMA program is being expanded. Teachers are clamoring to get the curriculum in their classrooms.

"I see children laughing, enjoying their learning," Dillon said. "No matter what their cultural background, they can connect with the OMA program and improve their academics, which is a very exciting thing."