As I walked the halls of Pomaika’i Elementary School during its Artist in Me event on April 26, a quote by the poet Horace danced into my brain: “A picture is a poem without words.” He would have loved the colorful, thoughtful, smart and original art by the students of Pomaika’i Elementary, grades K-5 grade.
Maui Ku’ia Estate Chocolate (MKEC) and other Friends of Pomaika’i donors and supporters of the school’s Arts Integration program were given a preview of the students’ work before the general public arrived for the year’s Artist in Me. Fourth grader Aika Swanson, escorted MKEC’s group from building to building to explain the focus and theme for the art exhibits by grade level, and she was ready to answer every question with the grace and confidence of a trained docent.
When we arrived at the first building, a student and teacher greeted us with a tray of fresh bruschetta - toasted baguette, topped with pesto and tomato. The tomatoes and the basil used to make the pesto were grown in the school garden.
At the second building we learned about the fourth-grade Kaho’olawe project. Aika told us that four teachers received a grant to travel to Kaho’olawe. The resulting lesson plans were perfectly orchestrated, as fourth grade is when Pomaika’i focuses on Hawaiian studies. The students wrote poems and essays about the island’s history, the impact of bombing practices and the heroes who fought to save Kaho’olawe. The students also learned about continuing restoration efforts, and they created art from recycled materials.
It was easy to see Art Integration at work in Artist in Me. Everything from poetry, storytelling and literature to digital arts, film, craft, design, media and photography as well as dance, drama and music were carefully used teaching tools. During a three-course dinner prepared by Maui’s own Sheldon Simeon of Tin Roof, students took the stage to sing and dance for their honored guests. They were proud to share a CD, Songs for Change, which they produced featuring original songs by John Cruz and Pomaika’i students and teachers.
Art Integration is not art education (teaching art).
Art Integration differs from traditional education by its inclusion of both the arts discipline and a traditional subject as part of learning (e.g. using improvisational drama skills to learn about conflict in writing).
Art Integration, defined by The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts is "an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects an artform and another subject and meets evolving objectives."
All of us at MKEC were honored to attend this year’s Artist in Me. It was wonderful to see Art Integration shine in every student, teacher and staff member, and from every wall in every hallway, classroom and public space on campus.