Julia Roberts Goad
DINGESS - The Artistic Director and Conductor of the West Virginia Symphony visited Dingess Elementary School Thursday and learned how music is being integrated into the curriculum.
The school is participating in SCALE, Student Centered Arts Learning Environment, a program that works to integrate the arts into education.
Maestro Grant Cooper observed Dingess music teacher Allen Riffle as Mrs. Baisden’s first grade class enacted a skit the students had written. The skit was based on the story of Little Red Riding Hood.
“This is fantastic,” Maestro Cooper said. “The whole point is to find a new way to inject energy and curiosity into education. The core of successful learning is approaching everything thoughtfully. Every opportunity to use the arts creates involvement and memorable lessons.”
Riffle said the Red Riding Hood theme was used with all grades at the school, in each subject.
“We sat down with kids from each class, and they provided input and wrote a short skit,” Riffle said. “Then we put all those different skits together to create the play the first grade performed today.”
The students visited the West Virginia Symphony earlier during the year as part of the SCALE program. They saw a piece written by the maestro that incorporated not only soprano coloratura, a type of operatic singing technique, but also rap. The piece, Boyz in the Wood, was also loosely based on Red Riding Hood, and had an anti-bullying and anti-gang messages.
“The idea is to write music that appeals to everyone,” Cooper said. “If you can catch the imagination of a child, it will open doors.”
He went on to say that by incorporating the experiences the students were having at school and the visit to the Clay Center to see the Symphony, they had a “full-on months long experience with the arts.”
Dingess Principal Don Spence said the SCALE project has been an avenue for the teachers to connect with each other as well as with their students.
“They are talking to each other about projects,” Spence said. “It has made a huge difference.”
He said the program works well with the approach to education at Dingess Elementary.
“Our teachers are so caring,” he said. “The emphasis is on teachers being facilitators with project-based learning - to let the kids learn on their own. We incorporate technology into every aspect of learning. Our kids are digital natives, we push that. We use everything possible to motivate our kids.”
He said the SCALE program has expanded the students’ horizons. As a rural and somewhat geographically isolated school, he said, it is often difficult for children learn about the arts.
“Incorporating arts into the curriculum gives our kids a boost,” Spence said. “Taking them to the symphony was such an experience. We were able to give them an opportunity they wouldn’t have had. We believe that giving them some culture makes them a well-rounded person.”