Even with the COVID-19 pandemic approaching on its one-year anniversary of forcing classrooms into the digital realm, teachers have been able to take that time to adapt and find new ways to be there for their students.
“The first semester, it was very difficult to have a very emotional connection,” Flagstaff High School graphic design teacher Kayley Quick said in an interview with Flagstaff Live! last month. “I do a check-in every two weeks and do my best to support them and have a conversation with them about what’s going on. I’m noticing students who are a lot more engaged when we have those emotional conversations and then go back into the curriculum.”
Numerous studies have outlined the importance of arts education, and it’s no different during a global pandemic. Participation in an art class helps students develop creative problem-solving skills, boost critical thinking, develop motor and social skills, connect students with the wider world and more.
According to new data reported by the Arizona Department of Education and Arizona Commission on the Arts, 89% of K-12 students in the state have access to education in at least one arts discipline. Participation, however, dropped 5% between the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.
Coconino and Maricopa Counties lead the way with 71% and 72% enrollment, respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, 12% and 34% of students in Gila and Cochise Counties are enrolled in the arts.
The latest update to the state’s Arts Education Data Project, comprised of self-reported data from school districts and local education agencies across the state, representing nearly 2,000 schools, also found that arts enrollment was highest among students in elementary schools at 79%, and lowest at high schools at 48%.
It was her own positive experiences during elementary school that Quick said encouraged her to follow her career path.
“I have always known I’ve wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I had a really good music teacher in elementary school that helped me get through difficult situations and it really inspired me.”
Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman praised the Arts Education Data Project for bringing awareness to the programs and classes available to students and the benefits it provides.
“I am grateful to know that more and more of Arizona’s students have access to opportunities to engage in the arts,” Hoffman said. “Arts provide a necessary and unique outlet for our students to creatively express themselves and share their stories. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with the Arizona Commission on the Arts to highlight the importance of the arts for our students.”
Visit the online version of this article for a link to the interactive dashboard to explore more data on arts education trends in Arizona.
The new data was announced during Youth Art Month, an annual celebration of K-12 artists held by the National Art Education Association. Typically, this is commemorated in Flagstaff with the Youth Art Exhibit at the Coconino Center for the Arts each March. This year, in lieu of in-person gatherings, CCA has launched Flagstaff’s first Youth Art Month Flag Design Contest.
Tynkertopia is providing STEAM kit supplies to help students work on their flag designs. Every Friday in March, the kits will be available for pick-up at CCA, 2300 N. Fort Valley Road, or Killip Elementary, 2300 E. 6th Ave., from 9 a.m. to noon. See the info box on B1 for more details on the contest.
The virtual celebration also highlights different Flagstaff arts educators each week. Recent features include Quick, Mount Elden Middle School teacher Laura Abrams, Flagstaff Arts & Leadership Academy teacher Rena Hamilton, Sechrist Elementary music teacher Kaitlyn Leung and more. Visit www.ccaflagstaff.org to learn more about Flagstaff’s arts educators throughout the month and see some of what their students have been working on.