Arts Matter conference sparks creativity at Brocks Hamilton campus

From green screen masterpieces to boomwhacker symphonies, Brock’s Hamilton campus was buzzing with creativity Wednesday, Sept. 18 during the annual Arts Matter: Integrating the Arts Across the Curriculum conference.Now in its ninth year, Arts Matter brought together 100 of Brock’s teacher candidates from the Concurrent Teacher Education and Consecutive Teacher Education programs to participate in hands-on dramatic arts, music, dance and visual arts workshops facilitated by educators who are experts in teaching the arts.Arts Matter is the only conference of its kind in Canada and was launched by Shelley Griffin, Peter Vietgen and Kari-Lynn Winters, who are all Associate Professors in Brock’s Faculty of Education.The three faculty members developed the conference to increase instructional time in the four arts disciplines for teacher candidates who will be teaching Grades K to 6 and Grades 4 to 10. Teacher candidates in these two streams will teach the arts, which can be a daunting prospect for those who lack artistic backgrounds or confidence.“I wanted to be here today to gain exposure to new things,” said Tayler Villamere, a fifth-year Concurrent Teacher Education student whose teachable subject is history. “I definitely don’t know very much about art, but I want to know more, so I’m here just to expose myself to a wide variety of resources, people and tools to help me get there.”During the conference, teacher candidates explored integrating arts across the curriculum, with a special focus on STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). In the music and dance workshops, for example, they explored the overlap between these areas and coding or computational thinking.“There’s a lot of power in using those techniques to get across subjects that can be abstract and difficult for kids to grasp,” said Villamere.Coley Baisden, a second-year Consecutive Teacher Education student, attended Arts Matter because she found herself teaching math and dance in a previous classroom placement and developed ways to integrate the two subjects.“If I had such a great experience doing that in a Grade 5 or 6 classroom, then it would be awesome to learn how to incorporate visual arts, music and drama in the same ways,” said Baisden.Positive responses from participants are rewarding for the conference organizers, who are proud to identify as both teachers and artists.“We are thrilled to see our teacher candidates become deeply passionate about arts education experiences through the conference,” said Griffin. “In particular, those types of experiences that draw them out of their seats to connect with their hearts and minds in ways that nothing but the arts can do.”As well as organizing the annual event, Griffin, Vietgen and Winters have begun a research project on Arts Matter with the goal of informing teacher education programs, encouraging successful classroom teacher practices and diminishing fears about teaching the arts.The facilitators included Melanie Lucken and Michael Prowse in music, Shauna Daley in visual arts, Meghan Park in drama and Amanda Williams in dance.