The curriculum at West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics (WMAAA) takes a different approach to academics. Through integrating the arts with everyday class work, the school is using art to help students gain a better understanding of math, social studies and language arts while also being creative.
"West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics is known for our arts integration program. Our kids go to at least 45 minutes of an arts class. So that's visual arts, drama, dance, vocal music and instrumental music," says former WMAAA director Travis Thompsen. "When they go to those classes, the arts teacher reinforces the concepts from their core academic classes."
The integration of arts and course work in math, social studies and language arts starts with learning the basic concepts of the subject in different ways. Instead of circling an adjective or reading about the life cycle of a butterfly, the students will act out the adjective or draw the butterfly's lifecycle.
"I think it sticks in your brain more," says academy student Malea Tanner. "When you are having fun, you are obviously going to remember more."
WMAAA's arts-infused curriculum is helping it stand out in the education field, and students are responding. Teacher Jordan Zubrickas sees the benefit of the alternative way of teaching every day.
"They make deeper connections," she says of her students." It helps carry over to tests and writing assignments."
WMAAA students spend 45 minutes a day in their chosen art program. Students can choose from visual arts, drama, dance, vocal music and instrumental music. The academy strives to empower students to go beyond what they thought they're capable of doing and prove to themselves that they can step outside their comfort zone and succeed.
WMAAA, a free public school, offers kindergarteners through 8th-graders at its Spring Lake campus a unique arts-integrated curriculum that weaves academic concepts and arts concepts together in a seamless program of study. Brain research has shown that activating both sides of the brain can lead to greater academic gains, and West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics believes that a dynamic program of student activities is vital to the educational development of the "whole child."
“I felt like I was really doing something and making a difference.” —Rick Blauwkamp, bus driver
“Getting kids outside the classroom positively impacts their learning, gets them engaged and encapsulates all the learning styles.” —Shelly Hammond, Ferry and Voyager principal