In a time when drama and music classes are being eliminated from schools as budgets are cut, the minds behind Any Given Child at the Kennedy Center see art as not only a way to bring culture to students but also as a valuable tool to teach them core curriculum.

“After a 2011 visit from the Kennedy Center, it was evident that our city, arts organizations and school district were all committed to the improvement of education in and through the arts,” says Jean Swanson, director of constituent and student services for Tulsa Public Schools. “Tulsa was chosen as the fifth city in the nation to participate in the initiative.”

There are three layers to the program: live arts experiences, arts integration and art for art’s sake.

For the live arts experience, each grade level goes on a field trip to a different museum or performance. Fifth graders see a Tulsa Ballet performance. Amber Tait, executive director of Any Given Child-Tulsa, says she received an email from a fifth grade teacher who said her students were not excited about the trip but ended up loving the ballet, even asking when they could go again.

Where this program really shines is in its ability to integrate arts into everyday lesson plans. “Field study trips are surrounded by extensive, meaningful arts integrated curriculum that is tied to common core standards in language arts, math, social studies and the visual arts,” explains Tait. “This curriculum allows students to form deeper connections not only to an art form, but to core academic subjects as well.”

As for art for art’s sake, it is as it sounds. “Art is a valuable asset to the lives of participating students because it expands their horizons,” says Tait. “Arts participation allows students to express ideas and feelings that can’t be communicated in other ways.”

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