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Art Boosts Learning at Easton School

Art class is more than crayons and colored paper at Samuel Staples Elementary School in Easton. Teachers Amy Traggianese and Alan Bates nurture their students' creativity using integrated lesson plans and positive reinforcement.

"Art making is very important for children's development," Traggianese said. "Literacy and numeracy skills can be taught and reinforced through art."

As a HOT (Higher Order Thinking) school, SSES integrates curriculum across disciplines. On Friday, Bates was preparing a lesson for second graders using clay polygons to create fish, which complemented the current math lesson.

"I can teach them skills, how to clean a paintbrush or how to hold a pencil," Bates said, "but the creative part of it, as long as they're happy with it, that's what makes the difference."

Traggianese agreed. "Here, there's no right answer ... I tell them, 'In math, two plus two equals four and if you get five that's wrong. But in here, you can add the straight lines and curvy lines and everybody will get something different."

For younger students, this freedom seems to contradict lessons from other classes, they said, but overcoming that obstacle can lead to a better understanding of all subjects.

Bates was recently approached by English teacher Rachel Barrows, who was interested in doing a lesson on elaborate detail to describe wintery scenes. Bates offered to sacrifice his planning period and invited Barrows to his class, where he would help the students create a winter scene. Barrows would work on the writing aspect, and the students would fill the scene in with the details they wrote about.

"The kids really get to see that we're not separate entities," Bates said. "This is a perfect connection."

Bates and Traggianese met at the University of Southern Connecticut before finding each other again at Staples many years later. They have worked a combined total of nearly 25 years at the school.

What are you doing in your classroom? Let us know in the comment box below!

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