IRON STATION – The arts have always been important at Iron Station Elementary School. They are about to become even more integrated in the curriculum.
The school has been named an A+ School of North Carolina by the N.C. Arts Council. Through the program, teachers and administrators at Iron Station will learn how to take a whole-school approach to education by integrating arts as a fundamental part of learning.
“I had never heard of this network before until Rhonda Hager (assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction) and Melanie Huss (director of elementary education) from the district office met with me last April,” said Iron Station Principal Audrey Benton. “They said that there aren’t any A+ schools in Lincoln County and we’d like for you to look into this and see if your school is interested and if so, pursue it.”
When Benton checked out the program online, she said, “I realized it was right up our alley.”
Benton, who has a background in music education, got the rest of the school on board, completed an extensive application and received a grant to pay for most of the training necessary for teachers. The professional development for the program lasts for three years.
“Basically, when you go to college to learn to be a teacher, they teach you that students learn in different ways,” she said. “Some students learn by doing things with their hands, some are auditory learners and some are visual. This program really engages the learner utilizing the arts.”
Iron Station is known for the Broadway musical it performs every year at the James W. Warren Citizens Center.
“We’re very heavy into the music and drama aspects and are looking to expand that into other ways,” Benton said.
She added that she hopes the program will improve students’ performance across the board.
“We have seen through the plays that we do that some of our students that struggle in class do very well with learning in that matter,” Benton explained. “Some of the ones that struggle the most are the ones that have the leads in our plays. They are able to memorize long roles and solos, and retain the information, but it’s through a different medium. If we start implementing that in the classrooms as well, we think it will help the students retain information in an alternative way.”
In the 2016-2017 N.C. Department of Public Instruction School Report Card, Iron Station was one point from receiving a B grade and was in the top 6 percent in the state for academic growth. Benton added that A+ Schools has a proven track record, and that research shows that over a period of three years, schools gain in proficiency, especially in subgroups.
“We’re starting with some basics now,” Benton said. “I had five teachers go to the initial training and they’re very excited about it. All of the teachers will go in July and the program will be put in place next year. ”