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McEver Arts Academy teaches its children through creative approach
Rut Villalobos, 10, creates a book report on “Fudge-a-Mania” Monday afternoon at McEver Arts Academy. Villalobos made the report in the form of a cereal box and included puzzles and games about the book.

Charting new territory
Many schools in the Hall County and Gainesville systems have charters, allowing them more flexibility. They may be exempt from some rules and policies, and in exchange must meet certain objectives specified in their charter. Today, The Times continues a weekly series on new local charter schools with a look at McEver Arts Academy.

Jaqueline Navarro weaved yarn together to resemble an old doll Monday.

The fifth-grader explained that “during the Civil War, they didn’t have money for toys so they made them.”
In the same classroom, other students were crafting book reports in the form of cereal boxes, which included games and puzzles based on the book.

The fifth-grade social studies class at McEver Arts Academy is one of many that infuses music, art and movement into lessons.

“I use a lot of art in my lessons. It’s something we do once or twice a week,” social studies teacher Sarah Lux said.

McEver became an arts-centric school in June as it earned charter status. Principal Catherine Rosa said teachers regularly integrate art strategies into their lesson plans.

Teachers use the CREATE approach to education, an acronym for connect, reflect, explore, apply, think and experience.

Rosa said she believes the method keeps more children engaged, and is another way of providing for students’ wide variety of needs.

“As they are creating they retain information better,” Rosa said.

The hallways of the school are filled with art projects from various classes, including math and science. For one piece, students created a visual model for math problems.

Outside of music instructor Laura Gale’s class, students illustrated “Ride of the Valkyries,” an opera by Richard Wagner.

“She said (the students) were pretty right on with what the composer was thinking,” Rosa said.

Every Friday, students have two sessions of CREATE, specialty classes that include Spanish, pottery and drama, among others.

Along with their regular staff, the academy partnered with several colleges to help provide the lessons.

Design students from Brenau University offered to teach felting, while other staff
teach puppet-making.

Georgia Tech soon will teach about the age and sound of jazz, via teleconferencing, Rosa said.

“This is building students’ background knowledge and giving them vocabulary they can’t learn anywhere else,” Rosa said of the partnerships.

Using grant money, McEver provides after-school programs for children,” Rosa said. “The funds allow low-income students to attend the classes for free, Rosa said.

Some of the offerings include drama, voice lessons and Zumba for kids, a Latin dance fitness program.

Many of the school’s transformations also were aided by a Character Through the Arts grant that combines arts with character building and gives teachers training to use arts-based strategies.

The school continues to add new programs to its curriculum.

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