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Westside makes use of arts funds

Teachers at Westside Elementary School have found new ways to incorporate art into their curriculum due in large part to funds the institution received from the Alabama Black Belt Arts Education Initiative.

“It provides grant money for us to integrate arts into our curriculum,” Laura Holley, counselor and site-based coordinator for the grant, said. “We have bought art supplies, music supplies. We pay for artists to come and have art experiences with the children. We have an artist coming for second grade in October. On Oct. 14, first grade will be going to the MSU Riley Center in Meridian and they are going to watch the theatrical performance of The LIttle Red Hen.” The school will also be opening an art room and a music room with some of the $15,000 given to WES in January.

While the grant has allowed for school-wide programs to be implemented, certain teachers — like second grade instructors Addy Card and Elizabeth Renner — have found ways to use art assignments to enhance the reading courses in their classrooms.

“Because of the grant, we’ve been supplied with paper, paint, paintbrushes; materials we can’t get out of the general fund,” Card said. “It really enriches what we already do. We did a writing activity about our favorite story that we’ve done in class. We used the materials to enrich what we’ve done.”

“I think even with these children, they are able to illustrate their writings, which will help them have a deeper understanding of the story and whatever they are writing about,” Holley said.

Card’s students depicted scenes from their favorite classroom stories. The new works of art now hang outside the classroom.

“I like it very much because it has colorful pictures in it,” Racheal Halkias said as she showed off her interpretation of her favorite story, The Rainbow Fish.

“My favorite part was when the elephant went to the arctic and broke the ice by sneezing,” Kyle Closson said, holding up his the picture he painted thanks to the inspiration of the story Watch Out Said the Elephant, I’m Going to Sneeze.

Card’s class was allowed to choose from a number of stories, including the favorite of Chris Knight, a story called Lightning Liz about a girl who has super speed.

“I like this because she can run fast and my favorite part was when she jumped over a cone,” Knight said while showing off his picture, which came complete with lightning bolts and an ominous sky.

Renner’s class took a different approach as each child did a picture based off the work Why Is Blue Dog Blue?

“They like doing anything with the arts, painting and being creative,” Renner said.

“It gives them another way to express what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling and what they know,” Card said of the artistic addition to the lesson plan.