by John de Dios
Written by Josh T. Saunders/El Independiente
Elementary and middle school students in the Tucson Unified School District are benefiting from a program called Opening Minds Through the Arts (OMA), which uses the arts to teach math, science, reading and writing basics.
OMA has grown from a pilot-project in three TUSD schools to a nationally recognized program over the last decade.
“OMA is a school reform program that utilizes the arts to boost student academic achievement as well as their social growth,” said Dr. Joan Ashcraft, the director of fine and performing arts for TUSD.
Ashcraft said the program’s goal is to build resiliency, global perspective, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving and innovation skills.
The program was created bas ed on research on the neurological development of children, which found significant connections be tween brain dev elopment and mu sic, Ashcraft said.
The curriculum is a full-scale collaboration between the classroom teacher, the school’s Art Integration Specialist, the teaching artist and the student. Local artists and teachers use instrumental music, opera, dance, theater and visual arts to engage students in a full-on creative learning experience.