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The Arts In Every Classroom: A Video Library K-5

Bringing Artists to Your Community

Successful collaborations between classroom teachers and artists who come for a residency enrich the curriculum of this rural school in Idalia, Colorado. A visiting actor brings story–telling and vocabulary to life for kindergarten and fourth–grade students and their teachers, while a musician engages first– and third–grade students in writing songs that relate to subjects they are studying.

View Transcript

Visiting musician Michael Stanwood works with third-grade teacher Sandi Waitman at Idalia School in Idalia, Colorado.

In rural Idalia, Colorado, 150 miles from Denver, two visiting artists work with teachers to enhance learning at tiny Idalia School:

  • Theatre artist Birgitta De Pree involves a kindergarten class in a storytelling activity that engages the imagination while reinforcing story structure skills.
  • After learning that teacher Trudi Weiser would like her fourth-grade students to build more colorful vocabularies, De Pree asks the children to pick verbs that sound “juicy,” act them out, and then use them in sentences.
  • Musician Michael Stanwood works with students and their teachers to write song lyrics that relate to their curriculum, then puts these lyrics to music. Sandi Waitman’s third-grade class explores Colorado history through a song. And social studies teacher Jim Rittenhouse describes the process Stanwood used to create an emotion-filled song about the massacre of Plains Indians at nearby Sand Creek.

Young Audiences of Colorado sponsors workshops for artists to learn to work with schools, and arranges their residencies. These same workshops are open to teachers, who learn to work effectively with resident artists. De Pree, who has worked with the school for several years, shares some of her strategies for successful residencies.

Featured People

Who’s Who (In order of appearance)

  • Sherri Ramseier, parent, Idalia School, Idalia, Colorado
  • Kathy Rittenhouse, parent, Idalia School, Idalia, Colorado
  • Linda Shivley, parent and substitute teacher, Idalia School, Idalia, Colorado
  • Katherine Babb, residency program co-founder, Idalia School, Idalia, Colorado (See nterview) below
  • Cyndie Weyerman, K-12 special education teacher and residency program co-founder, Idalia School, Idalia, Colorado (See interview below)
  • Mary Allen, kindergarten teacher, Idalia School, Idalia, Colorado (See interview below)
  • Birgitta De Pree, artist-in-residence, Idalia School, Idalia, Colorado
  • Trudi Weiser, fourth-grade teacher, Idalia School, Idalia, Colorado
  • Michael Stanwood, artist-in-residence, Idalia School, Idalia, Colorado
  • Sandi Waitman, third-grade teacher, Idalia School, Idalia, Colorado
  • Jim Rittenhouse, social studies teacher, Idalia School, Idalia, Colorado


Featured Schools

Idalia School

  • Location: Idalia, Colorado
  • Principal: Tim Gribben
  • Featured teachers and artists: Michael Stanwood, visiting musician; Linda Shivley, parent and substitute teacher; Katherine Babb, residency program co-founder; Cyndie Weyerman, special education teacher; Mary Allen, kindergarten teacher; Birgitta De Pree, visiting theatre artist; Trudi Weiser, fourth-grade teacher; Jim Rittenhouse, social studies teacher; Sandi Waitman, third-grade teacher
  • Grades: PreK–5
  • Number of students: 50
  • Number of faculty: 6
  • Demographic information: Idalia School’s 50 PreK–5 students account for one-third of its total PreK–12 student population of 151, all of whom study in one building. Of Idalia’s student population, 44 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and 10 percent are English language learners. Eighty-eight percent of students are Caucasian; 12 percent are non-Caucasian.

At Idalia School, students are encouraged to learn about and take pride in their tight-knit, rural community — often as a way of learning about history, geography, the arts, and other subjects.

Located on the eastern plains of Colorado 30 miles west of the Kansas border, Idalia School draws students from Idalia (population 91) and the nearby towns of Burlington, Joes, and Wray.

Teachers at Idalia School have collaborated with working artists to integrate the arts into the curriculum since 1997. Theatre, photography, poetry, prose, music, and visual art have found prominent places in the curriculum. Students recently produced a display called “Picture Old Idalia.” The exhibit began as a collection of old photographs and evolved into a permanent display that draws community members into the school to share their knowledge of the people and places depicted in more than 1,000 photos. The effort was supported by the Annenberg Rural Trust, which funds exemplary rural public school programs that reflect their communities’ unique history, culture, economy, or environment.

In the 1999–2000 school year, Idalia School was one of five schools in the state to receive the Colorado Alliance for Art Education’s Creative Ticket School of Excellence Award.

Information provided by Idalia School. Current as of February 2002.

Featured Approaches

Strategies for Successful Residencies

Here are some observations from Birgitta De Pree:

  • “You work in different capacities with different people. Some [teachers] are willing to take a big risk. Some others just want to have a feel for what you do. I’ve found that once they see it in action and have experienced it — gotten over that they’re not going to be put on the spot and realize that it’s an enjoyable and applicable and important thing — then you go further.”
  • “When they see the teacher playing with the kids — that’s huge. It’s huge to see the teacher taking a risk. It’s huge for the teacher to take a risk. But it’s amazing what message that gives to a kid.”
  • “One of the ways I know kids are learning or have grown is when they can evaluate their own work, can articulate what they’ve done — and by the observations they make about the work of other people or the play of other people.”
  • “I don’t think that I can teach like another teacher or that another teacher can teach like I teach. [I feel most successful] when I feel like I’ve given something to a teacher … [who] can get excited about finding their own way to do it.”

Who Should Watch This Program

“Bringing Artists to Your Community” demonstrates ways that teachers and professional artists can collaborate to identify instructional needs and meet them using arts-based approaches. The program can be used in a professional development setting by classroom and arts specialist teachers to help them work effectively with professional artists as well as by artists to help them understand the skills they need to work in classrooms.

Other audiences for this program might include:

  • arts organizations, to provide insights on current or potential visiting artist programs;
  • curriculum or arts project planners, to expand ideas on bringing the arts into a unit of study; and
  • administrators, parents, funders, and policymakers, to gain support for a visiting-artist program.

Before Watching

Over time, the teachers and visiting artists at Idalia school have learned to value each other’s contributions and to become confident of each other’s skills.

As you watch this program, look for instances where the classroom teachers look to the artists for ideas and strategies on instructional issues:

  • What input does the artist need from the teacher to be helpful?
  • How does the artist respond?
  • How do artist and teacher demonstrate to the students that they are working as a team?
  • Will the teacher and the artist assess achievement in the same way? If not, how will they differ? How will they agree on what constitutes success?




Katherine Babb – Co-founder of residency program, Idalia School, Idalia, Colorado

Cyndie Weyerman – Co-founder of residency program and K–12 special education teacher, Idalia School, Idalia, Colorado

Katherine Babb taught third grade for three years at Idalia School. She received a degree in elementary education from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado, and has done postgraduate work in special education, Spanish, music, English as a second language, reading, and computer science. Before Idalia, she taught for 16 years in two other small Colorado towns, Grover and Walsenburg. She now teaches high school Spanish in Burlington, Colorado. Babb writes plays and music and has published six small books, including a book for teachers on Reader’s Theatre.

Cyndie Weyerman has been a teacher for 26 years and the special education resource teacher at Idalia School for the past 16 years. She graduated from Arizona State University with a major concentration in elementary education and minors in special education, math education, and art. Weyerman received her master’s degree in special education from Adams State College in Alamosa, Colorado. She was a middle school teacher in Micronesia for the Peace Corps. She also taught at the middle school in Kearns, Utah, and at the high school in Rey, Colorado.

Q. Has the residency program at Idalia School been implemented schoolwide? If not, what portion of the school is now included in the program?

A. Babb: When the artists are in residence, the entire school participates at some level, from attending assemblies to spending in-depth workshop time with the artists. This includes students from preschool through high school.

Q. What was the approval process for the residency program? How did you obtain buy-in from the community, including parents?

A. Babb: When we first started, we had to have board approval to write grant proposals and the principal’s approval as well. We didn’t quite ask for parent approval, but when the artists were in the school, parents were very much included, especially in the evening and weekend workshops provided for the community by the artists. Parents definitely were a part of the process, through hosting artists in homes, coming to the workshops, and helping with fund-raising events.

Weyerman: Kathy describes what we had to go through in the beginning when everything was new. The people in charge and the people with whom the artists would be working needed opportunities for approval and input to begin to make this experience theirs, which was the goal since we wanted the integration of art into the curriculum to become routine rather than an experience that only occurs when an artist is in the classroom. Now, five years later, I conduct post-evaluation surveys of residencies and have formed a committee comprised of students, parents, and teachers who review the surveys, interview the artists, and ultimately pick the artists for the residencies. The administration “trusts” that we will continue to provide experiences with the same quality of artists as we have had. They “trust” that the faculty and community have a buy-in and support the process fully.

Q. How was the program funded?

A. Babb: At first, the funding came largely through grants from Young Audiences of Colorado, the Annenberg Rural Challenge, and several local grant sources. Then there were several types of fundraisers tried, and finally the kids started selling frozen cookie dough. Funding is an ongoing issue that never seems to end; there are wonderful artists out there if the money can be obtained!

Q. Describe the process by which you decided which artists and which disciplines to include in the residency program.

A. Babb: We wrote small surveys for the teachers, asking what types of artistic disciplines they would like to see in the school and how they felt that the arts would tie in to their curricular areas. People’s responses really did determine the types of arts disciplines we worked toward. Of course, we had met some of the artists through the Young Audiences Aesthetic Institutes and had such strong, positive encounters that we knew they would bring great things to the school — which they did!

Q. What other residencies have there been at Idalia School, in addition to music and theatre?

A. Babb: Professional photography, graphic design (computer), paper making, poetry writing (quite a bit of this!), fiction writing, and puppet making.

Q. Please describe the typical residency. Is there a standard term? A culminating activity or performance? Do you have the same artists every year?

A. Babb: The first year, we had two two-week residencies: David Guerrero with photography and Birgitta De Pree with drama. The second year, Birgitta came back for a two-month residency spread out over the year. This was a new type of residency for the Young Audiences people, but we all loved it because it “spread out the magic” for longer periods of time. That year, we also had a paper maker, a poet, and a graphic design computer specialist.

Before the residencies, teachers were asked for specific ways that they would use the artists in their classrooms and their curriculum. When the artists came, they met with the teachers (we hired a “floating sub” so that they had some time to do this) and talked about what they wanted to accomplish. This had amazing results. For example, the paper-making projects ranged from patriotic flags in first-grade social studies to amazing planets in sixth-grade science and parchment paper for writing the Articles of the Constitution in American History. Each artist had a special way of using the arts to intensify and broaden the curricular area. It was thrilling to see it happen.

Weyerman: The kinds of collective activities we do depends on the artist who is with us. We have launched our residencies with a performance as the catalyst. That’s been really powerful. We’ve also brought the artist in for a week or two to work with the students, let the energy build, and then provided an evening performance to which the entire family is invited. We’ve found an interactive aspect is powerful because the parents can participate or see the children interacting with the artist. I think our community support has grown because of those experiences. When possible, we’ve also tried to bring the school together to see, hear, watch, etc., the projects each class has been working on with the artist. The kids have performed music and plays they’ve written; read poetry, prose, and short fiction; and displayed photos in a variety of formats and discussed their purpose.

We really enjoy the mixture of having artists we know work with us mixed with new artists. Each offers something different and rich. This fall, for example, we have two new actors coming to launch a community history project. They will be the catalyst for the students to begin to collect their family’s history. The actors will be followed by two writers we’ve worked with before who will help the children turn their information into poetry, prose, historical fiction, and nonfiction. The actors will return after the writers to help those interested to turn their writings into short plays. In the spring we will have a new musician, an African drummer, working with us to integrate drumming into the curriculum… .

A lot … is driven by what we can afford. Let’s say we can afford a two-week residency, which is around $1,500. We then look at the discipline and confer with the artist to determine the amount of time he or she needs to work with the students to experience the artistic process integrated with the curriculum. Some teachers will only want a couple “workshops” to jazz up their curriculum. Others want a fully integrated project, which takes more time. From there the schedule emerges. Over time we’ve found that when teachers risk a full immersion experience, they never want to return to the simple workshops.

Q. What recommendations can you suggest for other schools interested in finding resident artist programs?

A. Babb: We were very fortunate in having Young Audiences as a springboard into our program. Their Aesthetic Institutes have been a great bridge for artists and schools. Teachers interested in having resident artists should find organizations like this. Arts councils and clubs, state arts organizations, the Getty Foundation, and other places might have information that would lead to artists trained and available to work with students.

Q. What qualities would a resident artist possess that would make you want that artist to come back to your school?

A. Babb: The best were those who were actively pursuing their own art first and were excited about communicating that form or that discipline to others. They were people who were artists first, but willing to be teachers if it meant that it could enthuse others about their art. The people with whom we worked had been specifically screened and trained by Young Audiences for just this end.

Weyerman: Good people skills are especially important. There are wonderful artists out there who would do poorly in a residency. Their art should be studied, observed, and appreciated. Artists who can connect well with children, can collaborate with teachers, and recreate the artistic process in the context of curriculum are the gems we seek for our residencies. Residencies are not for all artists or artists seeking an audience. This experience is about the children and helping to develop a perspective, which results in greater learning.

Q. What impact has the residency program had on the school?

A. Babb: Students and teachers alike have become excited about writing, poetry, photography, drama, and even paper making, but have learned more about their own potential for teaching and learning as well. Having artists in the school has opened new dimensions for not only new things to learn, but new ways to learn things!



Mary Allen – Kindergarten teacher, Idalia School, Idalia, Colorado
Mary Allen graduated from Colorado State College in Greeley (now known as the University of Northern Colorado) with a major concentration in fine arts and a minor in music and elementary education. She taught art in Rawlins, Wyoming, for two years and taught third grade in St. Francis, Kansas, for one year. She served as a substitute teacher at Idalia School while raising her family, returning to full-time teaching in 1997.

Q. How do you implement what you’ve learned from the resident artists in your classroom?

A. After having two poets as artists-in-residence and seeing how interested and excited the children were about poetry, I have helped my students create “class poems” once a week. These are hung in the hall for all to enjoy. At the end of the year I make a book of the poems we have created for each of the children to take home and enjoy. This activity satisfies Colorado State Standards for reading and writing, [such as] Standard 2: “Students write and speak for a variety of purposes and audiences.”

I have incorporated what was learned from an actress into many math and language activities. Here is one example of a math activity: Using our body parts, we solved addition and subtraction problems, [such as] “2 plus 4 = ?” One child might stand on one foot and put one hand on the floor, while another child stood on both feet and put down both hands. Another child would solve the problem and perhaps stand on one foot and put down five fingers. Children were encouraged to come up and solve the problem in other ways. They really enjoy this activity. Lots of laughter! This activity satisfies Colorado State Standards for mathematics, [such as] Standard 6: “Students can add and subtract whole numbers by combining and separating objects.”

We just had an artist help us make masks to use in our class play. I learned from her that the three little pigs don’t have to look like pigs and that the big bad wolf doesn’t really have to look like a wolf. She encouraged the children to be creative and use whatever materials they liked to decorate their masks — they were adorable. I plan to do this activity with the children each year.

A couple of years ago, we had a professional photographer visit our class. I used what was learned from him to help the children identify shapes in their surroundings. I take pictures of different things inside and outside the school, laminate them, and then have the children look for shapes in the pictures. For example, in the screens that cover our heat registers, we can see squares, triangles, circles, and diamonds. This activity satisfies Colorado State Standards for mathematics, [such as] Standard 4: “Students can recognize and identify circles, triangles, squares, rectangles, ovals, and diamonds.”

Q. Did you receive any professional development in working with artists in the classroom? If so, who provided the training?

A. Once, during an inservice. Some artists-in-residence provided the training.

Additional Resources

Related Video Library Programs 
Watch these programs for more information on ideas explored in “Bringing Artists to Your Community”:

Web Resources

Recommended by Mary Allen:

Arts Education Standards


    • Content Standard 2 — Acting by assuming roles and interacting in improvisations

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

    • Assume roles that exhibit concentration and contribute to the action of classroom dramatizations based on personal experience and heritage, imagination, literature, and history
  • Content Standard 6 — Comparing and contrasting art forms by describing theatre, dramatic media (such as film, television, and electronic media), and other art forms

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

    • Describe visual, aural, oral, and kinetic elements in theatre, dramatic media, dance, music, and visual arts
  • Content Standard 7 — Analyzing and explaining personal preferences and constructing meanings from classroom dramatizations and from theatre, film, television, and electronic media productions

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

    • Articulate emotional responses to and explain personal preferences about the whole as well as the parts of dramatic performances


    • Content Standard 2 — Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

    • Perform independent instrumental parts while other students sing or play contrasting parts
  • Content Standard 3 — Improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

    • Improvise short songs and instrumental pieces, using a variety of sound sources, including traditional sounds, nontraditional sounds available in the classroom, body sounds, and sounds produced by electronic means
  • Content Standard 9 — Understanding music in relation to history and culture

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

    • Demonstrate audience behavior appropriate for the context and style of music performed

Source: National Standards for Arts Education, published by Music Educators National Conference (MENC). Copyright © 1994 by MENC. Used by permission. The complete National Arts Standards and additional materials relating to the standards are available from MENC, The National Association for Music Education, 1806 Robert Fulton Drive, Reston, VA 20191, telephone: 800-336-3768.