Art is not just art at specialized schoolApr 03, 2022 07:59PM ● By Jet Burnham
Majestic Elementary Arts Academy bursts with student artwork on Art Festival night. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)
By Jet [email protected]
Colorful student-made ornaments, twisted like blown glass, impressed visitors at Majestic Elementary Arts Academy’s Art Festival held March 10. But the colorful creations were more than just an art project. Fifth grade students made the pieces of art by melting plastic plates, while learning about the scientific properties of matter.
The students also learned about renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. When they went on a field trip to see the Utah Symphony play at Abravanel Hall, they were able to study up-close the Chihuly glass installation displayed there.
The final cross-curriculum tie-in for the project was when the students, having discussed what collaboration means for those working in a glass studio or playing in a symphony, decided on a collaborative exhibit for the Art Festival. They displayed their individual art pieces together as a beautiful mobile.
Class projects often overlap with different subject areas at Majestic Elementary Arts Academy, which offers a fully arts-integrated curriculum. Art, drama and music are regularly incorporated into math, science and language arts lessons. Majestic is the only school in Jordan District where all students take daily musical instrument, visual art and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) classes.
Once on the verge of closing, Majestic Elementary’s transformation has been enthusiastically welcomed by students, parents and staff members.
STEAM teacher Meredith Llewellyn, who has been teaching at Majestic for five years, said the school culture has changed. She said students are now more enthusiastic about learning, understanding and making connections.
“They are excited for learning because it’s hands-on, and they can connect it in their brain better,” she said.
Principal Marianne Johansen has seen students, especially those with academic, language or motivation struggles, thrive in the arts-integrated environment.
“We have kiddos this year who have had attendance issues their whole lives, and they are coming to school because they're excited about what they're learning,” Johansen said. “They're smiling, and they're singing, and they're doing art.”
Parents were invited to the Arts Festival to see their children’s artwork. Families participated in the literacy scavenger hunt, posed in art masterpiece photo ops, tried new techniques at several art stations and performed plays using the puppets students had made in STEAM class.
Fourth graders made life-sized tissue paper dolls, students from another grade made sock puppets. Sixth graders created animal marionettes out of craft supplies, a tie-in to their science unit on animal adaptations.
Shalynn Roundy recently enrolled her two children at Majestic Elementary Arts Academy.
“They love it here,” she said. “They are doing really well.”
Both her kids love art, and her fourth grader, Braxton Davis, also loves math. Roundy likes that art and music are incorporated into his math lessons.
Every teacher at Majestic has either earned or is working on earning an arts integration endorsement, which takes two years of specialized training. They learn tools and techniques to creatively apply art and interactive activities into their lessons. Though it often looks like students are playing, classes are still academically rigorous, Johansen said.
There are 272 students currently enrolled at Majestic, with 12% attending on an out-of-boundary permit. As news of the specialized school spreads, Johansen expects those numbers to double within the next five years. Majestic Elementary Arts Academy is a free public school open to any K-6 students in the Salt Lake Valley.