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Opening Minds through the Arts

Inspired by exciting, ongoing research into connections between brain development and music, Tucson's Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA program) is a leader in a national movement to integrate arts education with core curriculum. OMA uses instrumental music, opera, dance, theater and visual arts to help teach reading, writing, math and science to children in kindergarten through 8th grade. Each fully implemented OMA school has an Arts Integration Specialist and a team of seven artists who work alongside classroom teachers, adapting each lesson to support teaching of core content and knowledge. In addition, children learn to play the recorder, violin, a wind instrument and keyboard. In Tucson, the OMA program employs 26 artists from the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Arizona Opera Company, University of Arizona Schools of Music and Dance and other arts organizations to teach 30-minute, twice-weekly classes for 36 weeks of the school year that support core curriculum goals.

Kindergarten: LISTENING – Students work with an instrumental ensemble strengthening essential listening skills while enriching and reinforcing the kindergarten curriculum.

1st Grade: LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT – Students work with opera singers to strengthen vocabulary and enhance reading/writing skills throughout the creation of original operas.

2nd Grade: KINESTHETIC AWARENESS – Students work with dance artists to identify mathematical structures and concepts in music.

3rd Grade: WRITING & ACADEMIC SKILLS – Students learn to play piano keyboards, Orff instruments and/or recorders while reading, composing original music and developing decoding skills important to language arts and mathematics

4th Grade: ABSTRACT REASONING – Students study violin, developing their reading and fine motor skills.

5th Grade: RESEARCH, CREATE, PERFORM – Students compose, direct and perform original works that examine universal themes through an inquiry based learning approach.

6th, 7th and 8th Grade: COMPOSITION/ANALYSIS – Students work with theater and dance artists, instrumental ensembles, and/or visual artists to create and perform original works. This improves students’ comprehension, writing skills, and further develops their ability to use critical thinking strategies.

It's Time for Opera!


IDeA Summer Institute

IDeA Instructional Design for the Arts Summer Institute

During IDeA, held May 28 and 29, 2015, at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Dr. Lois Hetland explored fundamental questions about arts education: What is is for and why does it matter? Participants responded with their own personal experiences as well as observations of their students, studied the current contemporary art in MOCA and utilized thinking frames for designing lesson plans. Her recent book, Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Arts Education, was used as a resource. Participants were asked to come with open minds and ready to investigate their own practices.

Below is the outline for the two-day IDeA Intensive:

Thursday, May 28, 2015
8:00 a.m. - What does learning look like? An interactive experience
10:30 a.m. - An Introduction to the Studio Thinking Framework based on our shared experience around "what learning looks like"
1:00 p.m. - Lesson planning with the Teaching for Understanding and Dimensions of Understanding frameworks
3:00 p.m. - Thinking Wall Reflection: Where have we gone, and what have we seen?

Friday, May 29, 2015
8:00 a.m. - Why Contemporary Art?
10:30 a.m. - What's My Line? Demonstration lesson analyzed with studio thinking
1:00 p.m. - Lesson Planning Workshop with museum visits
3:00 p.m. - Next Steps

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OMA brings the arts to Tucson Unified School District classrooms as a means of ...

  • Teaching core curriculum
  • Improving test scores
  • Fostering cognitive development
  • Igniting love and understanding of the arts
  • Narrowing the gap between less-privileged and more-privileged students
  • Building community
  • Encouraging self-expression
  • Supporting the arts

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