Rotary learns about ArtsBank

ArtsBank volunteers Scottie Wiest and Bill McWhorter provided information on a pilot program offering students an arts-integrated education experience during Monday’s Elkins Rotary Club meeting.

The pilot, launched in September for seventh-grade science students, has been deemed a success. The program, known as Arts and the Earth, teaches students by using art.

“Art is a creative, thorough process and is a natural mix with the sciences,” McWhorter said. “It helps with creative thinking and learning, and offers a different angle to approach problems.”

McWhorter said in this program, students are surrounded by the perfect laboratory – the Monongahela Forest.

“At the top of Spruce Knob, students are learning perspective,” McWhorter said. “Lots of learning is not just getting information, but touching, feeling, moving and being a part of what is going on around them.”

Students in the pilot were given journals, one side lined and the other side blank. This gave students the ability to not only write, but sketch, color, paint or draw what they were experiencing.

“Immersed in the environment, all of the kids’ senses are alive,” McWhorter said. “The big push now is not STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics; it has changed to STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. The statistics are finding that art added to this is helping students be more creative.

“Following this initiative, a collaboration of ArtsBank, Randolph County Schools and the Mountain Institute, the science instructor said her students came back with a better attitude, were more enthusiastic and had bonded to one another,” McWhorter said. “We want to offer this again in the fall on a larger scale, and will offer the program to students at Elkins Middle School.”

Rotary member Bob Dunkerely said he is in favor of arts-based learning.

“This type of learning keeps kids engaged,” Dunkerely said. “Students learn when instructors are passionate about learning. Arts education is one of the ways to keep students engaged and learning in a fun way.”

Arts education for grades K through 5 was eliminated in Randolph County Schools 25 years ago. ArtsBank was formed to bring arts education to all students in the county, and local artists started arts programs in the schools through ArtsBank 20 years ago.

The ArtsBank Auction is slated for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Elks Club. Tickets for the event are available at the door, and the evening includes a grand auction and silent auction of donated items crafted by local artisans.

Money from the event supports arts education in Randolph County Schools.