The Nootka Fine Arts Program incorporates drama, music, visual arts and dance to supplement learning for students in the K-7 group, better equipping them with skills needed to succeed in secondary school.
Its aim is to strengthen critical thinking skills, boost social collaboration and to encourage curiosity about the world by inspiring artistic creativity in the four disciplines.
Kerri Wallin, Principal at Nootka Elementary, says the benefits of a fine arts education are far-reaching.
“We know that music education at an early age is extremely beneficial to brain development, and this kind of outside-of-the-box learning is great for these students who will be eventually working, especially in the arts field,” she said.
The program, offered exclusively to Vancouver students, augments the standard curriculum while allotting a third of the week to fine arts lessons. Nootka Elementary offers 450 spots, admitting students based on an annual lottery. While there are no entry requirements, the program encourages children who are self-motivated and are able to work well with others.
“At the end of the day, kids with all learning needs experience a boost in self-esteem and confidence, because the arts help them to show off their talents and cultivate these skills,” Walling said.
However, staffing and funding issues threaten programs such as Nootka Fine Arts.
“It’s definitely a heavy teaching assignment, because instructors need to get through their core curriculum, but also get enough time for the arts,” Wallin said.
Scott Goble, a researcher in curriculum at the University of B.C.’s Faculty of Education, said that recent arts budget cuts are a detriment to these educational programs.
“It’s been looking a little better in the last couple of weeks, but unfortunately, it’s threatening our research on the importance of these programs too,” he said.
According to Wallin, equipping elementary school children with a fine arts background gives students an advantage in a cosmopolitan setting.
“Vancouver is a very cultured place, with many families invested in the arts. Let’s face it, we’re going to have a lot of employment opportunities in these areas,” she said.