WOODLAND PARK, NJ - Charles Olbon and Beatrice Gilmore Schools have been participating this year in the Young Audience Arts for Learning of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania.

The program brings arts experiences by professional teaching artists directly to students. By doing so, it eliminates barriers to participation and make the arts accessible to students of every background, geographic area, and ability. Both Charles Olbon and Beatrice Gilmore had a creativity consultant working with the teachers, an “artist in residence.”

At Charles Olbon, select classes have been working on mandala mindfulness, which is an art form where the students work within a grid to create something all their own, according to first grade teacher Ms. O’Connell.

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“The idea is that the art form is fluid,” she said. “The students have many different choices.” The project ties in several curriculum elements such as graphing, manipulating objects and using patterns.

Last year as part of the program, CO did an element on theater as well created a student made garden.

"It's great professional development for the teachers,” O’Connell said. “Our hope is to keep carrying it forth without the artist here and take what we’ve learned and keep it going.”

At Beatrice Gilmore, third graders have been working on acting skills, according to Mrs. Herrmann. They have created tableaus, where they use their bodies to make a still picture, without talking, to capture and communicate the meaning of a concept. They used the story of Johnny Appleseed for their project.

“Each student had to take a part of his story and bring it to life,” she said. “It ties in lessons in a number of subject to a performance.”

The work the third graders did also tied in math, where students acted out word problem, language arts and social studies.

BG used dance and movement to better understand geometric shapes, according to fourth grade teacher  Mrs. Yesenosky.

"We’ve used acting and tableau to 'see' a timeline up close," she said. "Having the students do these things instead of just reading about that helps them to make a connection to the material they are learning. They remember doing the activity. It leads to deeper thinking and a more connected learning environment."

The students have enjoyed these exercises and learned about how the arts can improve learning and how these new strategies can increase interest, Yesenosky added.