Friends School of Minnesota believes that the opportunity to respond to, create, and perform in the arts is essential to the development of the whole person. Education includes learning through music, drama, dance, and visual arts, as well as learning to enjoy those disciplines for their own sake. We also believe the arts are an integral part of our humanity and our cultural history; therefore, the arts are an integral part of our school’s culture and our students’ personal and social development.
Six Guiding Principles of Arts Education at FSMN
- Experiential. Active, hands-on, concrete experience is the most effective method of arts education. Students are immersed in the most direct experience possible.
- Holistic. Children learn best when they encounter whole ideas, events, and materials within a purposeful context. Understanding the integral role the arts have both in history and in human culture enhances appreciation.
- Authentic. Real, rich, complex ideas and materials are at the heart of the curriculum. Whenever possible, students’ interests are incorporated into classroom activities. This may lead to spontaneous changes in studies and influence curriculum.
- Expressive. To develop expressiveness students must be involved in meaningful arts experiences. Many opportunities are provided throughout the arts curriculum for students to share their work with a variety of audiences.
- Collaborative. Cooperative learning in the arts is more effective than competitive and star-centered approaches. Students’ skills are enriched through collaboration with other students and across classroom grade levels and curriculum areas.
- Challenging. Students learn best when faced with genuine challenges, choices, and responsibilities in their learning, and when their efforts to achieve are supported.
FSMN seeks to integrate arts education with other curriculum areas, which greatly enhances students’ experiential learning. We also embrace the school-wide commitment to cooperative learning. A portion of the art specialist’s time (30% FTE) is dedicated to visual art integration, allowing for deep cross-curricular connections to be made.
Arts education at Friends School incorporates the values and spirit of our Quaker mission. Public performance, as in the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, is viewed as service which supports and strengthens unity within the school and the broader community. FSMN’s multicultural goals are also supported through exposure to the arts of diverse cultures and the artistic achievement of individual artists.
We offer additional arts experiences to lower schoolers through many Open Lab activities, to middle schoolers through extracurricular activities (5-6 and 7-8 drama clubs, art club, and crafts club), and to all students through the after school music program. FSMN’s summer program offers a range of individual classes in all of the arts for grades 2-8, plus an early childhood integrated arts program to grades pre-K-3; faculty in the summer program are practicing artists who also teach. Financial aid equivalent to a family’s tuition aid is offered for all fee-based programs during the year; financial aid of up to 50% of tuition is offered to all families in the summer.
Friends School understands the importance of building a strong arts curriculum. Our 2014 addition to the building included a new art room built for the unique needs of studio art across all grades. The art specialist position includes a 30% FTE dedicated to arts integration across the curriculum. The art specialist works with teachers to find areas where their curricula intersect so that students experience a more meaningful connection with materials and a deeper learning experience. Arts integration happens both during the regularly scheduled art time and outside of that time. In cases where the time is scheduled outside of the regular art period, the classroom teacher and the art specialist teach together and learn from one another, thus also serving as professional development for both teachers.
In order to successfully meet the music benchmarks established for FSMN, general music education instruction time was increased starting in the 2012-2013 school year. An additional thirty minutes per week of musical instruction time was added to grades K-3. Lower school student now attend music class for thirty minutes, three times per week. Equipment, including a professionally restored Mason and Hamlin grand piano, a new Yamaha studio piano, concert risers and acoustical shells, and a classroom playback sound system, were purchased. The new equipment enhances student practice, study, and performance.
FSMN addresses drama by exposing students to a variety of experiences as performers and viewers rather than teaching it as a separate discipline, and therefore does not have benchmarks for this area.
In grades K-4, drama is infused into the classroom curriculum. This may take the form of dramatic play and role-playing in kindergarten, the biennial creation and production of an opera in grades 1-2, reader’s theater, skits in response to literature, and the 3-4 play that is conceived, written, and performed by the students for the school community. Middle school students also have the opportunity to join 5-6 or 7-8 drama club as an extracurricular activity. All-school and community dramatic performances, especially the MLK event, are valued as a regular part of the school’s culture, creating learning experiences for both performers and audience.
In middle school, theater performance is experienced in drama club, and other areas of the curriculum. In drama club, students learn about performing individually and as a cast, how to follow direction, and how to memorize blocking and lines. In the classroom drama is used both as a response to material and as a means of demonstrating understanding. For example, in science, students create skits and public service announcements to explain FSMN’s composting and recycling program. The skits are meant to inform and to show the students’ understanding of the program, but they are also intended to entertain and to be memorable, so students need to consider their audience and their impact as performers. In language arts, students dramatize part of their assigned reading to present to the class. They cut text, cast parts, set blocking, and choose costumes and props. In social studies, students create skits to demonstrate their understanding of the complexity of historical events. They write and direct those pieces and choose movement, props and dialogue to convey the meaning of the event they are portraying. Fifth and sixth grade also participate in a mock trial every other year, for which they research, create, and perform characters in a courtroom scenario.
All grades have biennial residencies in theater with a local theater artist. Sometimes these residencies are integrated into the curriculum and sometimes they stand alone. Teachers can invite residency artists back to their classrooms to do more work with their students.
FSMN works to create opportunities for children to be audience members. Kindergarten sees a performance at the Children’s Theatre each year, and Hamline University’s children’s theater group perform here for the lower school annually. Teachers of all grades are encouraged to seek out field trips to theater performances in the Twin Cities.
FSMN addresses dance/movement by exposing students to a variety of experiences as performers and viewers rather than teaching it as a separate discipline, and therefore does not have benchmarks for this area.
Dance/movement experiences in grades K-4 occur in a variety of ways. Individual classrooms have offered dance and movement experiences through their regular curricula. Biennial dance residencies provide rich, often multicultural dance training to grades K-8. Dance is also an important part of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, for which students work with a professional choreographer. The music curriculum also offers limited dance experiences across grade levels. Spanish is taught across grades using Total Physical Response.
FSMN seeks out opportunities to take students to dance performances throughout the city as available and affordable.