Beaufort County schools earn state's highest arts award

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 24, 2014 

STAFF ILLUSTRATION

The Beaufort County School District is coloring outside the lines when it comes to incorporating the arts into its curriculum, according to the S.C. Arts Commission.

The organization will present the 2014 Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Award for Arts Education to the district. The award, established in 1972, recognizes achievements and contributions to art in South Carolina. It is the highest arts honor in the state, according to the commission.

The district was one of four nominees for the arts education category, according to commission spokeswoman Milly Hough. She said the nominees included both school districts as well as organizations that promote arts education.

"The Beaufort County School District stands out for its longtime commitment to quality arts education," commission senior manager Rusty Sox said. "The enthusiasm for the arts is not contained within school grounds; it infuses the local community and enhances the lives of Beaufort residents."

Three district schools -- Lady's Island Elementary, Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts and Beaufort Middle -- have arts-infused curriculum. Lady's Island Middle School will soon join the group, district spokesman Jim Foster said.

In such schools, visual and performing arts are integrated into daily classroom instruction. Art is used to teach lessons in subjects such as science and history, chief instructional services officer Dereck Rhoads has said.

The district also partners with the local arts community, Hough said, through field trips to performances, presentations by local artists and public exhibits featuring student artwork.

"Beaufort County stretches out over a vast 500 square miles in the South Carolina Lowcountry, yet everywhere you look the fingerprint of Beaufort County student artists and teachers is evident," Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said in his nomination letter.

As school district officials and board members seek ways to add academic programs of choice throughout the county, they will consider expanding the arts-infused model to other schools if there is demand from parents, superintendent Jeff Moss said.

Lady's Island Middle principal Mona Lise Dickson said the arts-infused curriculum can benefit all students and helps them become more well-rounded.

"Look at us, we learn our ABCs through singing, and kids can create so much with technology nowadays," Dickson said. "The data does show that when you give children choices and different ways of learning ... it lends itself for children to really tap into their creativity to show you how they learn and master material."

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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