Multicultural arts programming having positive impact in elementary learning

New research recently released has shown the profound impact of multicultural arts in elementary learning in Windsor, supported by a $61,000 project funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

The Canadian Network for Arts & Learning, in partnership with Arts Can Teach, released the report detailing the results of a project integrating multicultural arts instruction into teaching core curriculum in the Windsor.

In 2019, the two organizations received the OTF grant to develop, implement and research the impact of hands-on multicultural arts activities in elementary classrooms in the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB).

The research report revealed that 71% of participating educators in the program agreed or strongly agreed that the program engages English language learners, newcomers and Indigenous students, and 90.4% agreed or strongly agreed that the program supported student well-being.

Karen McClellan, founder and executive director of Arts Can Teach, says thanks to the OTF grant they were able to hire and train seven new artists from diverse backgrounds in the community.

“Helped engage 15 artist educators, working in 225 classrooms, 37 schools and reaching more than 6,300 students throughout the GECDSB. We are so grateful for this Ontario Trillium Foundation support and look forward to continuing to grow.”

Throughout this project, Arts Can Teach and The Canadian Network for Arts & Learning tried to learn how to best mentor and support artist educators from diverse multicultural backgrounds to help bring cultural arts activities into school environments. 

The initiative measured students’ response to seeing a diversity of cultures and traditions represented in their educators and their learning by integrating visual arts, drama, and performance poetry with lessons exploring culture, heritage, identity and character.

Bernadette Berthelotte, Arts Consultant with the GECDSB, says this is her sixth year in the role and the arts initiatives are alive and well within the school board.

“Our students are benefiting tremendously from some of the offerings that are happening, and not just the regular students for a lack of a better word, but all students because it’s very inclusive and very equitable.”

Celeste Kurcz, a teacher within the GECDSB, says she was teaching Grade 3 immersion last year with a very heavy amount of boys in class who just didn’t want to write for anything.

“And then I got a lovely email from Arts Can Teach, and heard about that we can talk about identify and heritage, and I thought OK this is something I’m definitely interested in. Because I know these kids, especially my boys, but I know all of my students have stories to tell.”

The project was initially expected to take 12 months, but ran into delays due to the pandemic. 

It took place online in the spring of 2021/2022, and artists lessons focused on creative learning opportunities for teachers and students while being mindful of the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty in schools across the region.

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