Tupelo has another reason to be proud of its public schools. Pierce Street Elementary School has been announced as the Kennedy Center Creative Ticket School of Distinction for Mississippi.
This award recognizes the work Pierce Street teachers, administrators and parents do to educate students in and through the arts every day. Instruction at our school goes well beyond “art for art’s sake” and applies the learning power of the arts to all subject areas. Every teacher and child at our school is involved in the arts through daily arts integration into classroom instruction. These fine arts experiences do not take place in a vacuum. Each art project, school production, dance experience, drama presentation or creative writing project is carefully tied in to the objectives and skills that are being taught in the general classroom.
Pierce Street is also a pilot school for the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Whole Schools Project. Administrators and teachers, from within Mississippi as well as out of state, frequently tour our school to observe a successful model for arts integration.
Our school was also one of several schools across the nation featured in “Third Space: When Learning Matters.” This recently published book is a study of how schools with large populations of students in economic poverty can be transformed into vibrant and successful centers of learning by educating through the arts. The book documents the astounding reform that takes place when the arts are infused into all subject areas in the curriculum. This is certainly the case at Pierce Street. Our school consistently has maintained a Level 5, Exemplary Rating, every year since ratings have been assigned to individual schools.
A critical component of Pierce Street’s highly successful arts-integration program is the use of curriculum mapping. Teachers work in teams to ensure that each subject area of the curriculum map has arts-integrated components. Special care is taken to make sure the transitions between grade levels are seamless, and there is little or no redundancy in art experiences in each grade level. As a result, curriculum mapping has provided grade specific, developmentally appropriate studies of artists and art genres.
Parental involvement at our school has been greatly enhanced because of arts integration. Parents can be found in our classrooms sharing their talents, serving on committees that make decisions concerning short- and long-range plans for our arts programs, as well as working to secure funding for our arts programs through PTO support and searching for available grant funding. Of course, our parents always are willing to be that “extra set of hands” to help with integrated arts lessons. Without our parents’ dedicated and tireless efforts, our arts program would not be nearly as successful as it is today.
Pierce Street staff and students are immensely proud of our achievements, but our school is only one school out of 13 outstanding schools in Tupelo. Every school in our district is very special and has outstanding achievements unique to their campus. As we in Tupelo continue to expect excellence every day, let’s continue to celebrate all of our great school district’s successes.
Lee Anne Grace is music instructor at Pierce Street
Elementary School in Tupelo.