Arizona School for the Arts: Arts Education in Action
Every 4th Friday of the month, Practical Art hosts a Charity Pie Night. Pie night is your opportunity to eat the delicious, one-of-a-kind creations made by Karen Olson of Vonceil’s Pie, while learning about important non-profit agencies around Arizona! Next Friday, February 26, 2016, Practical Art is enthusiastically hosting this delicious event in honor of Arizona School for the Arts (ASA).
Arizona School for the Arts is a public charter school whose mission is to “inspire creative thinkers and leaders through providing an innovative concentration in college preparation informed by the performing arts.” ASA, offering grades 5-12, consistently ranks as one of the top academic schools in Arizona. If you are a numbers person, check out the following statistics:
- 12th-National rank in Reading (Global Report Card 2011)
- 22nd- National rank in Math (Global Report Card 2011)
- 100% graduation rate
- 96% of ASA graduates pursue four-year postsecondary education
- Ranked 13th in the state of Arizona for combined SAT scores
We were both impressed and curious about how this school produces such amazing results, so we decided to check it out for ourselves. Last week, we took a tour of ASA, led by student ambassador, Kelly Dorney. A senior who has attended ASA since 6th grade, Ms. Dorney is a testament to the school’s mission in and of herself. Articulate, well-informed, and thoughtful, she graciously led us across the campus, answering all of our questions and offering her own insights into what makes the school one-of-a-kind.
After meeting Ms. Dorney, and development director, Marion Donaldson in the office, we cut across campus to see some of the student classrooms. Walking past the beautiful bandshell dominating the middle of the outside courtyard, we were serenaded by the sweet sound of a violin being played by orchestra performer, concertmaster, and ASA violin instructor, Dr. Sarah Schreffler. Instructors at ASA, in both the academic and arts sectors have significant experience in their fields and demonstrate passion in what they teach. Interestingly, vetting teachers often includes student input. Ms. Dorney explained that prospective teachers often present sample lessons to a group of current students, and student feedback plays a deciding factor in the hiring process. Over the course of our tour, we came to understand that student input, inclusion, creativity, and responsibility are common themes at ASA.
Entering the classroom buildings, we saw colorful bulletin boards throughout the hall. These boards bore encouraging words, announcements, and messages for students, from students. We traveled upstairs and toured the gorgeous dance studios, peered through windows at ongoing Physics and Social Studies lessons, listened in on French instruction, and interrupted the band teacher as he practiced in his classroom during a break from teaching. Ms. Dorney enlightened us as we went about the average day for a student. Core academic classes occur in the mornings, while performing arts happen after lunch. Students work in groups at tables, fostering collaboration. Classrooms are multi-use, and spaces utilized for history in the morning may be converted (sometimes with retractable walls) to orchestra rooms in the afternoon. In high school, students choose two arts to focus on– Ms. Dorney takes cello and piano.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating classrooms that we walked into was a middle school piano class. Piano’s line the walls and cluster in the center of the room. Students play away, and yet the room is silent. They each wear headphones allowing them to focus on their own playing, with the capability to pair up and produce duets. The teacher also has headphones, and can tune into any student’s piano throughout the class. It is a unique opportunity for individualized instruction. To describe it in one word– awesome!
Students of all grades eat lunch at the same time, and Ms. Dorney regaled us with the story of how senior students came up and spoke to her encouragingly on her first day of 6th grade. No hazing, no bullying. “People don’t believe me when I tell them, but I have never seen bullying here,” she asserts. No bullying? How is this possible?
The Arts encourage creativity and individuality. In a school that fosters these traits, bullying has no place. Dorney reiterates that it is the creative community that allows for such acceptance. That, and school policies allowing for measures such as a gender neutral restroom.
As we completed our tour, I asked Ms. Dorney how the incorporation of the arts impacted her experience at ASA. Her answer, perfectly, focused on community. The incorporation of arts not only encourages community within the school, but also allows her to connect with the Phoenix arts community at large. The connection is one she plans to foster and continue in the future. Ms. Donaldson reiterated that many students from ASA come back to Phoenix and become community leaders and economic drivers encouraging positive change.
Here at Practical Art, we believe in the power of Art. Creative expression unites, inspires, empowers, and provokes. What we witnessed in the brief hour of our visit at ASA is a testament of the power of Art. The impressive students of ASA demonstrate everyday how Art, in various forms, critically engages individuals of all ages to develop and improve the community around them.
Visit us next Friday from 7:00-9:00pm, meet these amazing students, witness a few awe-inspiring student performances, eat pie (of course!), and support this amazing school. We can’t wait to see you there!
A Share of the Pie: Charity Pie Night!
Friday, February 26th, 2016 from 7pm-9pm
A $5 donation gets you a slice of a Vonceil’s Pies creation! A $10 donation gets you as many in-house tastings as you’d like! All donations, and 10% of all sales that day, will be donated to Rainbow Acres!