Bonner Elementary program completes successful year
Fifth-grader Aubrey Sumler, 12, carves details into a clay sea horse with a pencil. She and a roomful of other students are making clay sea creatures to be mounted onto a mural at her school.
More than five years of planning is finally paying off for students and teachers involved at the H.E. Bonner Elementary Academy of the Arts, made of more than 200 of the school’s 820 students.
The program launched in the fall recently completed its first full school year.
This is a special wing of the school focused on teaching two classes in each grade of first through fifth graders various elements of the arts.These include emphasis on art, technology, news, music, culinary arts, drama and dance, Principal Natalie Lockiear said.
Academy teachers have to teach through the arts, Bonner’s Title 1 Facilitator Kelly Gabriel said. They might teach the main idea through drama or tableaus – in which students create their own scenes frozen in motion to represent people and objects with the way they position their bodies.
This is exactly what’s going on in teacher Carrie Chinner’s fourth grade class. Her students recently studied the Civil War battles of Antietam and Fort Sumter.
Students were instructed to get in groups of four or five with at least one boy and girl per group.
Students had to use social and decision making skills to get together in these groups, Gabriel said. “If you listen to them you hear groups making decisions.”
Students then talk among their group to represent different parts of the battles. Some students portray Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, a cannon, dead soldiers or a bloody road.
The more than 30 arts academy teachers received extensive training from Sean and Melanie Layne at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C.
“We offer the training to all our teachers and encourage them,” Gabriel said. “Everybody on our staff has been very open.
“The kids absolutely love it. In our school the kids do not sit and learn. They act and perform to learn the material.”
Students apply to be in the academy and are selected through a lottery, Gabriel said. Once they are in the academy they remain in it as they rise through each grade level.
The school’s morning news is run by academy students and beamed into SMART boards in each classroom – there are no more TVs in the school, according to Gabriel.
Fifth-graders write the scripts, run the computers and interview other students. It takes another special application to be part of the news crew, which gets its own red polo shirts that say WHBE News Crew.
First graders are learning writing, drawing, shapes and even and odd numbers. One assignment shows numbers represented by colors and shapes pasted onto construction paper: the number 129 is represented by an orange square equal to 100, two long black rectangles representing 20 (10 each) and nine blue squares equaling nine.
A number of grants helped launch the Academy of the Arts, including a more than $60,000 Title 1 School Choice Grant, a $14,000 South Carolina Arts Commission Arts in Basic Curriculum Grant (ABC) and a $4,500 S.C. Department of Education Distinguished Arts Program Grant (DAP).
The funds will further the development of the Academy of the Arts, according to a Berkeley County School District press release.
“This opportunity has given the students many avenues for self-expression through the different art forms,” Lockliear said. “It brings the standards to life for the children in a way that makes learning fun and more meaningful.”