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Arts & Culture

Bringing Arts Education into Hawai‘i’s Schools

The kinesthetic, active experience of drama reaches some students in ways that more traditional teaching methods simply do not.

After a Honolulu Theatre for Youth teaching artist visited a first-grade classroom, a second-grade teacher reported: “Students were better able to relate to characters and vocabulary in the story by becoming one of the characters.” The experience provided opportunities for empathy and understanding. Classroom encounters such as this help illustrate why arts-based experience is so vital in schools.

HCF works with the Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts to fund the Artists in the Schools (AITS) program, to support artist residencies in public and charter schools. Partners such as Honolulu Theatre for Youth can then bring drama techniques, such as how to create a character, to elementary and middle school students. These teaching artists also develop a rapport with students, working on life skills like cooperation and listening.

Whether through dance, theater, literary arts, music, puppetry, or visual arts, AITS teaching artists provide engaging and fun learning experiences for students—and the educators benefit as well. Through workshops with the teaching artists, educators learn how they can integrate the fine arts into their lesson plans for core standards, such as math, social studies, and science.

During the 2019-2020 school year, Hawai‘i Community Foundation provided grants to eight nonprofit organizations to support AITS artist residencies at 46 schools. As a result, over 370 teachers participated in professional development opportunities and more than 4,150 students were engaged in the arts. Perhaps our next Picassos and Pegge Hoppers are among them.

$205.6 million is generated by the arts and culture sector in Hawai‘i, supporting 5,968 full-time jobs.

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