Bartlett Elementary lets imaginations romp during arts week

By Carolyn Bahm, Express editor –

Bartlett Elementary students spent last week learning about sundials, creating metallic art and performing original skits for fellow students. The activities were part of a project led by traveling artist Cherri Coleman, who helped the children build confidence and tap into creativity.

The skits were a multi-layered project. Third-graders learned about the state’s symbols, such as the state bird, the mockingbird; the state fruit, the tomato; and the state reptile, the Eastern boxed turtle. Then they broke off into small groups to dream up a myth about each symbol, write a skit about it, assign and practice parts, and perform it for their fellow students.

Why are tomatoes red? They got embarrassed.

Why are poplar leaves heart-shaped? The very romantic reason is because long ago a couple married beneath their leaves.
And so on went the children’s seemingly endless imagination. The results got waves of applause and giggles as classrooms gathered in the school’s music room to watch.

Display boards lining the hallway showcased the student’s 3-D metallic artwork, created with aluminum foil, paint and imagination.

Brad Foust, Bartlett Elementary’s Professional Learning Communities coach, explained that the week’s activities with Coleman came about because of a three-year $79,500 grant he wrote for his school. The grant for the Arts360 Art Integration program was provided through the Tennessee Arts Commission. The goal is to integrate the arts more fully into multiple disciplines to better engage students. At the end of the grant period, BES should be a model arts integration school for the district.

Now in its first year, the grant has allowed Bartlett Elementary to bring in the New Ballet Ensemble from Memphis a couple of times and have a string quartet from the Memphis Symphony Orchestra perform. The funds sent a team of teachers to the Arts Integration Conference last summer and will send more to the Tennessee Arts Academy this summer. The grant also bought a cart full of art supplies for each classroom.

“The arts help to engage students in a different way,” Foust said. “They provide all students in a classroom, whether they are low achievers or middle achievers or high achievers, an opportunity to experience success, based on the level they’re at.”

Bartlett Elementary Principal Page Watson watched the skit performances Friday and commented, “We’ve had so much positive response from the children.”

She continued, “Some of these kids have realized they can do some things they never thought they could do.”