As the construction of Max H Simpson Elementary continues to make steady progress to meet its targeted date of completion, the Waxahachie Independent School District School Board discussed, during its most recent meeting, an arts-focused curriculum for the school.
“All of our [elementary schools] have a focus or a theme, not that they don’t do the usual curriculum,” said Superintendent Dr. Bonny Cain at the Nov. 11 meeting. “So, when we are looking at Simpson … there’d been a lot of questions because we are such a fine arts district, to look at what would a fine arts focus look at in elementary school.”
Leading Simpson’s potential fine arts development is Philip Morgan, the district’s new fine arts director.
“Arts integration is a teaching approach of learning through which the content and standards in normal STEM courses are assessed equitably in and through the arts,” explained Morgan during his presentation. “In other words, I’m teaching math in my classroom, but I’m utilizing the arts and professional communication to help students get excited and motivated, and tying that back into their STEM curriculum.”
The director further explained that students would receive certified instructions in visual and theater arts, as well as music. The goal is to get students excited about learning.
Morgan added that arts integration is especially beneficial to students who are “not necessarily strong achievers.”
They “will be more motivated to do those complex problems and write more efficiently when they’re introduced in a fun, exciting way through music and through theater and through visual arts,” he said. “Some students just don’t work when you go through basic math instruction, but sometimes when you pull really neat stories into it and you make it literature-focused through fine arts, kids get involved.”
Cain voiced her support for a fine arts program that she said would only expand the district’s curriculum breadth.
“I think it's unique that so many campuses have different themes, and I think it’s a good thing that we have a variety because it just makes the district richer in its offering,” Cain boasted. “As we grow as a district, we’re going to be looking into different things like this that I think would be well received by the community.”
Morgan told the Board that other school districts have found success through arts integration including Keller, Denton and Grand Prairie.
Grand Prairie ISD’s arts-focused elementary schools “encourage artistic exploration and integration” through theater, dance, music and art, according to the district.
Simpson Elementary, located at 460 Washington Ave, is the ninth elementary school for the Waxahachie ISD and is expected to open next spring.