Visual arts are not the first thing that comes to mind when PE classes come up. But visual arts are exactly what Claudia Renee Seay, physical education teacher at Claremont Immersion Elementary, has been teaching in her classes for the last 13 years.
Seay is one of two Arlington teachers, along with Karen Crow Roark of Long Branch Elementary, to receive certificates of study from the Kennedy Center for participating in Performing Arts' Professional Development Opportunities for Teachers Program, which instructs teachers on how to implement art as a teaching method in the classroom.
Teaching techniques incorporating storytelling, book creation, puppetry, creative dance, theater and poetry are taught in the seminars offered by the Kennedy Center. Seay used "creative movement and dance to express how a butterfly evolves from a caterpillar." She even took her students on a fieldtrip to Discovery Theatre in order to help them tell stories through dance.
The program “allows me to use new and innovative ideas, to be open and embrace new things, to think bigger in terms of how I can bring visual and language arts into my class …” said Seay. “It's so good you can go back the next day [after a workshop] and use the techniques in class."
The artistic methods taught by the Kennedy Center are not limited to PE classes. Roark, who moved to Arlington last fall, has used storytelling to "teach children how to cope with stress." She has students work collaboratively to come up with their own stories and plays. it "helps them tell their own personal stories and helps them visualize and remember them better," she said.
<b>ROARK ALSO USED</b> ballet and the music of various cultures to help elaborate on lessons. "These classes give students more ways to get involved- not just papers and pencils...it makes the lessons come alive." It also helps her as a teacher. "It energizes you as a teacher and keeps the kids excited at school," she said.
Colleagues and students at the schools are amazed by the techniques as well. Claremont principal Cynthia Nixon said Seay's teaching "has transformed physical education in a way that it is not the traditional view or standard of physical education; the most insipring piece is how she has collaborated with classroom teachers on what students are learning in other classes."
At Long Branch, Roark “made class seem fun and more involved,” said student Lillian Goldstein.
At the Kennedy Center, the leaders of the program are amazed at how the new methods have effected teachers. Amy Duma, a representetive for the center, said the program is "really having an effect on student learning, especially students who are not native english speakers and special education students because it gives them a chance to be successful even if they don't know the language."
Seay, Duma said, "is not only teaching them PE but she brings in the arts and other subjects as well.” On Roark, Duma said, "She is very enthusiastic and excited about teaching and about the program, and she brings that enthusiasm into the classroom."