The Windsor Unified School District (WUSD) recently received a $60,000 Grants for Projects award that will support iAspire Arts Integration programs, an academic partnership between the arts and other core academic content areas.
The WUSD project is among 1,100 projects across the country that were selected in the second round of Grants for Arts Projects funding in the 2021 fiscal year.
The WUSD collaborated with Big Art Ideas and Education Consulting in order to complete the grant application process. The application was built on the success of the district’s iAspire 2019 and 2020 programs and included data, examples of student’s work and teacher testimonials.
“We are honored to be one of only three school districts in the country to receive funding. This is a very competitive grant and most recipients are drawn from the nonprofit sector or represent county or state departments of education. This grant highlights WUSD’s deep commitment to arts education and student achievement,” iAspire Project Director and Visual And Performing Arts (VAPA) coordinator Elizabeth Robertson said in a district press release.
With iAspire, students learn about the arts by participating in arts integrated lesson units where they show their understanding of various academic concepts through the arts and technology.
Through the program, students create, revise, present and perform through music, theatre, visual arts, dance and digital arts.
According to the press release, “Observed benefits include increased classroom engagement, improved collaboration, deeper understanding of academic skills, improved classroom behavior, and discovering connections between school, home and the community.”
Previously, the district was awarded a $1.7 million student support and academic enrichment grant, which helped launch the iAspire program.
The $60,000 award will fund professional development and coaching for teachers.
“One of the biggest hurdles for professional development is finding ways to compensate teachers for their time,” Robertson said. “The benefit for students is the implementation aspect of the iAspire program. Teachers will participate in professional development,implement strategies they learn with students, receive coaching and then meet to share and reflect their own and students experiences and outcomes.”
For instance, recently through collaboration with the WUSD and regional Migrant Education Programs, the district funded and implemented a three-week arts integration summer program for 75 students.
“Students and teachers integrated the arts with Spanish Language Arts, Science, Social Emotional Learning and Math,” Robertson said. “The program culminated with an art exposition for families and the school community.”
The district plans to host the program again in 2022. The program will also serve as an arts integration demonstration and model program for other districts.
“We are hoping the grant will enable more WUSD teachers to incorporate arts integration strategies and units into their classrooms. We are seeking to increase students' access to quality arts education and create equitable arts offerings at each of our elementary sites,” Robertson said.
The iAspire program professional development isn’t just limited to Windsor teachers. The program includes opportunities for all Sonoma County teachers to participate in arts integration professional development.
In 2020, 29 participants from around the county participated in an iAspire virtual summit.
“We are particularly excited to have the opportunity to expand iAspire programming to other Sonoma County districts, teachers and students,” Robertson said in the press release. “Through professional development and coaching, we are hoping to create a county-wide arts integration professional learning community with WUSD teachers as active participants and teacher leaders.”