CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- Chattanooga and Hamilton County are getting national recognition this week for excellent arts programs in schools. The National Forum of the Arts Education Partnership is being held here, citing our area as a good example while admitting we still have a long way to go.
Too many schools still have little or no arts resources. Dance class is the highlight of the day at Chattanooga's Barger Academy, where dance includes many lessons, including good behavior.
Dance teacher Felicion McMillon-Diakhate said," Bullying in this class does not exist. We teach them no matter what size you are, no matter what color you are, we're all dancers. No one is different, no one is better or worse than you."
Third grader Isabel Schoomaker loves dance class, she said, "Because we actually get to express ourselves." Classmate Avery Love said she learns about kindness in the class, and how to react if she sees other children involved in bullying-type behavior. "You stop them, ask them nicely, then ask them firmly, then get a teacher to help," Avery said.
Barger's dance room is filled with signs, serving as reminders about treating others with kindness, thinking before you speak, and realizing the power of words. Fine Arts Curriculum Director Juana Wilson-Roberts said, "In dance, they do songs with action words, we let them know it's okay to be different, and we let them act out how they should behave in an aggressive situation."
Barger has yet another luxury too many schools lack. An art class, encouraging students to express their feelings, be creative and communicate without words. The underlying message is, you don't have to be a great artist to be a great person, but never be afraid to express yourself through art or movement. It's a mindset that pays off in better behavior and better test scores, according to Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, visiting the National Forum in Chattanooga this week.
"The arts are collaborative," Landesman said. "You're addressing those social problems most directly in a collaborative way. Whether it's opera, dance, chorus or any artistic endeavor, you're collaborating with others, and that's how we learn to work together."