Red Lake Middle School Tie Dyed
Michael Meuers & Mike Barrett
Tie-Dye Friday at Red Lake Middle School.

Integrating Art to Increase Performance at Red Lake Middle School

Michael Meuers

Every student and staff member at the Red Lake Middle School (RLMS) was said to have tie-dyed a shirt for a school-wide photo-op for a kick-off event on Friday, December 19, 2014, at 9 a.m. And it was no small chore to get 250 people together for that photo, reported Red Lake Middle School teacher Tami Liberty.

“RLMS was selected by the Presidents Council on Arts and Humanities as a grantee for a special program this year and next year,” said Liberty. “The program is called the Turnaround Arts. It grants funds to the lowest performing schools to integrate art into the core curriculum to increase student performance. We have been heavy into strategic planning and are now ready to kick off the project to the greater community.”

“RLMS is just part of over 6 million public school kids in this country who have no access to the arts,” said Red Lake Middle School Principle Susan L. Ninham. “Kids in this country who need the arts the most are getting it the least.”

The arts are not just a flower—something to be added on after math and reading scores are up. But also a wrench—a tool that can be used to increase student engagement and achievement,” Ninham added.

Red Lake Middle School Principle Susan Ninham. (Michael Meuers & Mike Barrett)

An Important Addition to RLMS Curriculum

Red Lake Middle School belongs to a network of 35 Turnaround Arts schools across the country, which uses the arts to improve student learning as part of a national program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. Turnaround Arts: Minnesota is run by Perpich Center for Arts Education.

A strong arts program, used strategically, can help address some of the problems commonly found in high-poverty, underperforming schools.

Arts experiences reach children at their core, build cultural connections, and excite children about coming to school and learning.

Arts classes get students excited and engaged and give them the experience of success, often for the first time.

Arts integration gives teachers new tools to motivate, reach and teach their kids.

Recent studies show that students who participate regularly in the arts are more self-confident and better able to express their ideas, have higher attendance and high school graduation rates, and are more likely to go on to a four-year university, graduate from that university and go on to a career with potential.

The students that need the arts the most are getting it the least. While rich public schools have high rates of arts education, high-poverty schools have almost none. There are over 5 million students in public elementary schools in this country without either music or an arts class in their school. Almost all are high-poverty.

According to Ninham, there are five target areas the team will be focusing on this year with the grant, along with actions already taken or planned.

Integrate arts into classroom instruction.

Increase positive peer relationships.

Increase family support and involvement at school.

Increase Ojibwe cultural knowledge for students.

Transform at least two spaces around the school into healing art places using murals, student generated work and gathering spaces.

The Perpich Center for Arts Education leads the initiative in Minnesota, in partnership with the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Vision Statement

Red Lake Middle School is an artistic cultural school environment. Our vision is to develop a healing cultural school environment where the families and community become an integral part of and contribute to the positive relationships with and among students and staff. The school embodies the students’ creative and artistic endeavors and hidden talents to achieve the success of all.

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