Oshkosh Area School District expanding art integration efforts

OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - A $675,000 grant will help the Oshkosh Area School District (OASD) invest in art-integrated education over the next three years. But the focus of that funding won't be on students, it'll be on teachers.

Art-integration is a type of teaching where students demonstrate their understanding of a subject through some type of art form.

The OASD plans to expand its use of art integration by investing in teacher development.

"We were looking for a unique an innovative way to re-engage teachers in the classroom, keep them in the classroom, and also attract them to the field,” said OASD Director of Curriculum and Instruction Julie Conrad.

"We have things you have to do in your classroom, we need to be teaching to the standards, we need to be doing this,” said Renee Schumacher. “Here's a way to wrap all that up in a pretty bow that is fun, that is engaging."

Schumacher serves as the Oshkosh district's ArtsCore coordinator. ArtsCore is a partnership with UW-Oshkosh, Paine Art Center and Gardens, and regional public school districts. It supports newer teachers through programming designed to make them more confident in the classroom. It provides individual assistance and coaching to teachers throughout the school year and also has retreats where teachers can learn and network together.

"We bring them to the Paine Art Center, we teach them about art integration,” said Schumacher. “Just kind of expose them to the arts and give them ideas they can take back to their classrooms."

"They come back energized, and that's exactly what we want,” said Conrad.

Conrad says research shows that, unless supported, educators will likely leave the profession in the first 5 years. So the ArtsCore program, especially for newer educators, can help with retention and student learning.

"Teaching is hard, so when we have that energy and passion behind things, teaching and learning becomes that much easier,” said Conrad. "This is an innovative way to push student learning by focusing on the teacher."

The grant funding was provided by Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies and will be used to bring more OASD teachers into the ArtsCore program.

"This year I am very excited to see what happens, where this goes,” said Schumacher. “It feels limitless."