Chalk Art Festivals and Summer Fun

     Liz Brown is the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program Visual Arts Specialist at Daniels Canyon Elementary and Old Mill Elementary in the Wasatch County School District. During the last week of school, Liz hosted school-wide chalk festivals at both locations. Each class was given a designated area on the school sidewalks to create chalk art. Every student received professional chalk pastels that can be used in unique ways to create pieces of art.

     Before the students could begin to draw on the sidewalks, they had to learn about chalk pastel techniques. First, Liz had the students practice blending and shading techniques on paper. Then, they practiced pressing the chalk into the paper to create varying levels of thickness and sharpness. The students were also taught how to properly scale a small piece to a larger size, which created an opportunity to integrate art and math.

     Prior to becoming a specialist, Liz was a classroom teacher and participated in the BYU ARTS Partnership’s Arts Leadership Academy. Over ten days of professional development workshops, she learned skills in five art forms and techniques for integrating the arts into other curricular areas. She then participated in Arts Bridge, a program where a BYU student came to her classroom to teach art lessons. Even though the Arts Leadership Academy did not provide the qualifications necessary to become a specialist, Liz has still been able to apply what she learned to her current position. Of the experience, Liz said, “Before Arts Academy I loved to use art, but I looked at art as the fun stuff. Through Arts Academy and through the action research I did with Arts Bridge, I really saw that it wasn’t just fun stuff. I felt like I could justify with research and valid sources why I was doing art, and why it was having a deep impact on my students.”

 Liz now advocates to bring school-wide opportunities in the arts to other teachers. These opportunities include programs by the Kimball Arts Center and Arts-Kids, Inc. from Park City, Utah, as well as field trips to BYU. “Arts Academy gave me more confidence to advocate for the arts” she said. “Other teachers wanted their students to have more of the arts as well.” The chalk festival was a perfect way for Liz to end the year with an arts experience for both schools. To learn more about Arts Leadership Academy, visit
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The 150th Anniversary of the Golden Spike Unites History and the Arts in Elementary Classrooms

On May 10, 2019 Utahans will celebrate the 150-year anniversary of the Golden Spike Ceremony.

The first transcontinental railroad connected the West Coast, rich in gold and other precious metals, to the industrial Northeast and spurred western expansion by cutting the travel time between the West and East Coasts from six months to six days.

The Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads met at Utah’s Promontory Summit in 1869, uniting the two main tracks into a single railroad line—the Transcontinental Railroad. To mark the meeting, Leland Stanford, cofounder of the Central Pacific Railroad, added a 17.6-karat gold spike as the last piece of the railroad.

To celebrate the 150-year anniversary of the golden spike, BYU ARTS Partnership created six lessons for third to sixth graders which use art, music, dance, and theater to teach students about the Transcontinental Railroad.

The Railroad Rhythms  by Jennifer Purdy

(click here to view the lesson plan)

Students explore sound layering by performing railroad sounds to a steady beat and creating a railroad soundscape. Teachers read Iron Horses by Verla Kay while students use simple classroom instruments, found sounds, body percussion, tapping, or vocalizations to follow the book’s rhythm. Dividing the class into groups, students practice layering rhythms as the class become an orchestral chorus of whistles, wheels, steam, and motors. Using musical terms such as accelerando, piano, and forte, teachers guide their students in their transcontinental railroad orchestra. Students also find the rhythm in language by using words related to the railroad to count syllables.

New Newsies: Uncovering the Stories Buried beneath the Golden Spike  by David Dynak

This lesson helps develop research skills as students inspect primary sources and perform a theatrical piece on newsies. The newsies strike of 1899 is a perfect example of how the railroad changed American society; New York City newsies united to strike after Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raised newspaper prices. In this activity, students read primary and secondary sources to uncover the full story behind the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. After researching, students perform in a play which dramatizes the sometimes-unknown experiences of many groups affected by the Transcontinental Railroad. Diving into roles as newsies allows students to perform their new-found knowledge on the building of the railroad.

Real and Ideal: A Closer Look at Westward Expansion by Rachel Jackson Gonthier

Students learn to identify the differences between romanticized ideals and reality by comparing romantic paintings to photographs. Nineteenth century paintings of the American West romanticize the landscape and the ideals tied to westward expansion. Photographs from the same time period provide a realistic portrayal of the landscape to contrast these romanticized ideals. This allows students to analyze how pictures tell stories and create certain perceptions. Students are invited to reflect on how they romanticize their own lives. Students also practice identifying misleading images by taking photographs of the same object from different angles. When finished, students present their pictures to the class and explain how a different perspective can change the viewer’s perception.

Iron Horses  by Miriam Bowen

Students read the book Iron Horses by Verla Kay to explore the eight types of locomotor body movements: walking, running, hopping, skipping, jumping, galloping, leaping, and sliding. The class is divided into different groups to perform the locomotor movements. By practicing these movements, students bring the written word to life and make connections between people walking, horses galloping, and the Transcontinental Railroad chugging.

The Great American Bison  by Brenda Beyal

This lesson utilizes acting and art to show students how history is a complex narrative with multiple perspectives. The lesson showcases the advantages and disadvantages of building a Transcontinental Railroad and how the railroad negatively impacted Native Americans and the great American bison. The railroad cut through Native American hunting grounds and diminished the bison population, their main source of food. Native Americans remained resourceful and used every part of the bison they killed. During the lesson, students follow their example by being resourceful. Students create an art piece with recyclable materials such as plastic bottles, old papers, and cereal boxes. In another activity, students learn there are many perspectives within one story and how to implement thought tracking through role playing exercises.

Railroad Meter  by Emily Soderborg

This lesson connects the Transcontinental Railroad to music. When constructing the railroad, builders used musical beats to move the railroad tracks together. Listening to the song “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” students tap the beat to gain a sense for meter and identify two-meter, three-meter, four-meter, and mixed-meter rhythms within different songs. Students can play instruments alongside the musical recordings to understand meter. For the third activity, the teacher plays several songs sung by groups who worked on the railroad or who were impacted by the railroad. Students divide into groups to research and perform each song. The songs come from an array of peoples and cultures including African American, Irish, Chinese, Latter-day Saint, and Shoshone. At the end of the lesson, students prepare and present a brief presentation on the history of their song to the class.

BYU ARTS Partnership lessons unite historical events with the arts to give students a multilayered understanding of the past. These lessons encourage students to analyze history and uncover facts excluded in traditional historical texts.

Students learn to question history and become historical detectives. These lessons also explore history as a complex narrative; they cover how valuable resources benefitted American expansion while also teaching the high cost of this expansion for Native Americans as well as the detrimental impact on certain groups of immigrants. As students delve into history, they learn how the past shapes the present and their own identity as Americans.

Look for these lesson titles at Special thanks to Brenda Beyal, David Dynak, Jennifer Purdy, Emily Soderborg, Miriam Bowen, and Rachel Jackson Gonthier, who developed these lessons.

Writer: Emma Smith
Contact: Cindy Glad (801) 422-1922
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Moving Through Africa: A BTSALP Dance Specialist's Experience - Rachel Marie Kimball


From Ghana to Rwanda, and finally Uganda, I moved and danced with countless souls to the rhythms of cultural heritage. Young and old—male and female—embraced the gift of life in these mortal bodies through dancing with me . . . and nothing could stop us from smiling. The movement of Africa shows that dance can be much more than an educational tool or an outlet for the gifted or troubled—it is a way of life.


While in Africa, I did the following:

     - Worked closely and trained with four dance troupes

     - Spent quality time teaching dance-integrated and dance-for-dance-sake lessons
        in five primary and secondary schools

     - Collaborated with faculty members at four schools about the importance of
        dance and movement in education

     - Offered a half-day training on dance integration for the entire faculty at
        Nyanza Peace Academy in Nyanza, Rwanda

     - Completed a weeklong project with the dance troupe at Nyanza Peace
        Academy, complete with an informance about peace and conflict
        resolution, presented to the student body, faculty, and several family
        members in the area

     - Collected contact information from a total of 35 educators in Ghana,
        Rwanda, and Uganda in order to continue collaboration via the internet

From this small-scale overview, the most meaningful experiences are those when I connected on a deep level with individuals. Below are a couple examples of the people I was blessed to connect with:

Jonathan Balyejjusa and Save the Youth Troupe 

Jonathan Balyejjusa (pictured on the far right in the photo on page one) is a man of wisdom, strength, and charity. He is the founder and director of Save the Youth music and dance troupe in Lugazi, Uganda. Working with over 30 youth each year, he strives to empower the community through the study and performance of cultural heritage in the arts. The troupe was formed over 10 years ago and has influenced countless youth in the area. Jonathan is a living example of what it means to rise above challenges as he directs the troupe with a disabled leg. In addition to being a gifted instructor of music and dance, he is a teacher of life skills, a father figure to all youth, and a friend to everyone. As I worked with the troupe, I witnessed how Jonathan’s work offers them the skills and confidence to seek higher education and employment. They don’t just dance and sing for fun; they do it to truly live.

A Friend at the Fence 

While teaching at Christ the King Primary School in Mukono, Uganda, I noticed several small children huddled on the other side of the fence, watching us. This sentence is ambiguous because of the order. I suggest: They weren’t wearing the school uniform, and appeared to either come from families that couldn’t support their education or were too young to attend school. As I was completing my lesson, I noticed that the children had entered the school property and were sitting on a step to one of the classrooms nearby. They were happily dancing along to the music with us. Once I finished the lesson, I sat next to one of the little boys. I saw that he had a stick in his hand. I looked around me and found a few more sticks lying on the ground, so I picked them up and showed them to the boy. We spent the next several minutes in our own little world creating interesting shapes and arrangements with the sticks. We couldn’t speak the same language, but we took turns making changes to the sticks and celebrating the contributions of one another through smiles. I never learned his name, but I definitely felt his vibrant soul. I hope he continues to return to that fence. Whether he gets to sit in one of those desks and wear one of those uniforms or not, I hope he never loses his sense of creativity and desire to learn.

Special thanks to Families Mentoring Families, Global Education Allies, and Nebo School District for making this all possible.
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Abundance of Arts Resources Provided to Schools

More than 350 schools in Utah have a plethora of arts resources at their fingertips after being provided with binders full of materials, strategies, contacts, and resources that will contribute to the building up of arts-rich schools. This information was gathered through a process of researching, surveying, questioning, gathering, and writing.

In 2018, the presidents of Utah Art Education Association, Utah Music Educators Association, Utah Dance Education Organization, and Utah Advisory Council of Theatre Teachers formed a team. In each arts area, chapters were written for the secondary school edition of “Building an Arts-Rich School: Strategies and Resources for Administrators” binders. The first edition was presented to elementary principals last year and to secondary principals, with the additional chapters, this year. The materials are now combined and available online on the BYU ARTS Partnership website in addition to lesson plans for teachers and other resources.

At the beginning of the process, the members of the BYU ARTS Partnership leadership team and arts specialists within the BYU ARTS Partnership were asked what they want their principals to know. After this information was gathered, the writing team created the content for the elementary school edition. The first edition was presented in a session at the 2017 Learning Edge Conference.

The following year, one representative from each professional arts education organization contributed on a panel to introduce the additions included in the secondary school edition at the 2018 Learning Edge Conference. Key points and objectives of the materials were shared. Every principal in the BYU–Public School Partnership was given a binder.

While many administrators and educators understand the importance of an arts-infused education for their students, they may not always know what to do, how to do it, where to find help, and how to pay for materials. With these new resources in hand, principals now have a starting point and pathway to move toward their arts goals for their schools.

The hope is they will discuss the detailed information with teachers to find the best solutions and provide quality arts experiences for students at their schools. A self-assessment is included to reflect upon current practices. If areas fall short, the principals and other school personnel can use the resources included in the “Arts-Rich Schools Resources” to begin finding solutions.

Activities required to produce the project included interviewing local teaching artists; defining what constitutes an arts-rich school; surveying principals of schools that matched qualifications for arts-rich schools; personal correspondence with community arts organizations; and compiling infographics, white pages, and research articles.

The binders include the sections “For Schools,” “For Teachers,” “For Students,” “Funding and Advocacy,” and “Arts Standards.” Examples of resources include professional development information, strategies for hiring qualified arts specialists, partnership opportunities, descriptions of available grants, and lists of a variety of online resources. These and other materials that will increase the quality and quantity of arts education in local schools are available at

Laura Giles is a lover of all things art, a first-grade teacher in Alpine School District, a writer for the Daily Herald newspaper, an Arts Leadership Academy graduate, and has earned the Arts Integration Endorsement from Brigham Young University. She can be reached at
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BYU Arts Bridge Program Connects Students and Teachers Through Arts Integration

The BYU Arts Bridge Program officially concluded a successful season with a large celebration on Thursday, January 10. Arts Bridge, housed within the BYU ARTS Partnership, is a program which serves both BYU students from various artistic disciplines— including music, drama, visual art, and dance— and public school classroom teachers, allowing them to work together to develop their artistic and teaching skills through arts instruction and arts integration in local public schools. For the duration of the fall 2018 semester, 25 students called Arts Bridge Scholars were engaged in this teaching process, working with mentors in their disciplines as well as public school classroom teachers to integrate their art forms with traditional academic subjects. To conclude their efforts and celebrate their accomplishments, these students and classroom teachers met together to present what they had learned and enjoy an evening of enriching collaboration and artistic expression.

“I felt so grateful to be a part of this program as I listened to classroom teachers and BYU Arts Bridge Scholars express immense gratification for being able to explore new teaching skills, build new relationships, share in meaningful artistic experiences, and witness new pathways to student success in the classroom through the implementation of arts instruction,” said Heather Francis, director of the Arts Bridge Program.

As the scholars gave presentations together with the classroom teachers who have been their partners, the benefits of this collaborative project were clear to all involved. Many classroom teachers expressed their gratitude to the scholars for teaching them strategies for integrating the arts into their classrooms. The scholars, in turn, also expressed their appreciation for having the chance to learn classroom management and other important teaching skills from seasoned professionals in the “real world” of public school teaching.

“The program helped me prepare for pre-student teaching and get over the jitters of teaching in a real classroom,” Kiersten Hopkins, an Arts Bridge Music Scholar, shared as part of her presentation. “It taught me how to collaborate with a teacher and gave me confidence in my abilities to be creative and think on the spot. I’m so thankful I had this opportunity and now feel much more excited and sure that I love teaching and want to continue on this path!”

To learn more about the Arts Bridge Program, read blogs written by the Arts Bridge Scholars detailing their experiences at our website BYU students with an interest in teaching the arts in public schools can apply to be an Arts Bridge Scholar on this webpage as well. Applications for next year’s Arts Bridge Program will begin February 4, 2019.

Written by Sarah Earl, Arts Bridge Scholar and Student Coordinator
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Filling a School With the Arts: Sage Hills Elementary

Students at Sage Hills Elementary in Saratoga Springs, Utah, are being immersed in the arts this year as they learn other subject matter. The teachers at the school are integrating the arts into the curriculum in a variety of ways, with a little help from some arts experts! 

Principal John Emett said that some very creative things are going on at the school with arts integration. “The BYU Partnership has helped us develop so well!” he said. Students and teachers are all benefitting from this collaboration.

For the past three years, the school benefitted from the expertise of a Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program (BTSALP) drama teacher, Melanie Skankey. Skankey is now a fifth grade teacher at the school. The influence of that expertise is still being felt.

Last month, the entire student body participated in a Specialty Celebration, which is something that the school began doing two years ago.

“We like to take a day at the end of rotations and celebrate our progress,” said Dana Moore, physical education teacher. This year, the students traveled the globe and started in the Pacific Islands and Australia.

While “visiting” these areas of the world, the students participated in a variety of arts-based activities. These included a Haka dance-off, Tinikling, creating strings of rhythm with chains of beats and a glow-in-the-dark dance party. The Haka is a ceremonial dance in Māori culture. Tinikling is a traditional Philippine folk dance.

This year, visual arts and literacy are being integrated in some of the classes. Scott Flox, artist-in-residence from the BYU Arts Partnership, has been collaborating with fifth grade teachers Teressa Paepke and Melanie Skankey to integrate the arts into their teaching.

According to Paepke, Flox has been helping the students with novel studies, mind-mapping and drawing. Recently, he has been studying “The BFG” by Roald Dahl with the kids. He has also taken them through the steps of drawing pumpkins and creating artworks, modeling the importance of basic drawing skills.

Since Flox has been working with the teachers, their instruction has changed in many ways, according to Paepke. “As teachers, we have started writing our own deep integrated lessons based on National Geographic articles, poems, speeches and other articles,” she said.

The teachers are not the only ones who are benefitting from this collaboration. “Students are learning in a new way that is more engaging to them and means more. The content is relevant to them and they make connections to it. They also remember it more and are able to recall things more often and quicker,” Paepke said.

First-graders at Sage Hills are dancing while learning. According to Emett, collaboration amongst teacher Summer Wanlass and a dance scholar, Emily Rowe, from Brigham Young University is bringing the art of dance to the students. Wanlass is participating in the Arts Bridge program. The program provides an opportunity for classroom teachers and students to have an in-depth experience in an art form.

Music Scholar Kiersten Hopkins, from Brigham Young University, is working with Melanie Skankey’s class to help them integrate music into the curriculum. The arts are flowing through the halls and classrooms of Sage Hills Elementary!

Laura Giles is a lover of all things art, a first grade teacher in Alpine School District, a writer for The Daily Herald newspaper, an Arts Leadership Academy graduate and has earned the Arts Integration Endorsement from Brigham Young University. She can be reached at
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The Art of Collaboration

Written by Laura Giles

Art students in James Rees’s classes at Provo High School have had the opportunity to work collaboratively with the community during the last couple of years to beautify the schools of young children. Two different murals were created for Mountainland Head Start – one for the school in Orem and one for the school in Lehi.

The first mural was created in collaboration with elementary students from Lakeview Elementary School in Provo. Art teacher Elicia Gray’s students created artworks depicting robots. Then, Rees’s students incorporated the robots into the mural. About 80 students total – elementary and high school – helped to create the piece. Street artist Scott Stanley, from Salt Lake City, helped the students to make the works on the mural cohesive.


The second mural was created in the gallery of the Provo Towne Centre Mall. On a Saturday morning, doughnuts were served and the public was invited to work collaboratively on the artwork. About 55 community members and 45 of Rees’s students helped to create the piece. Again, Scott Stanley pulled it all together with color, line and texture.

Rees said that he is a strong advocate for a connection between his students and their community. “The arts pull the community together,” he said.

In the cases of the two murals, the younger preschool children who attend Mountainland Head Start will benefit for years to come from being exposed to the large, colorful artworks. The older students – both the elementary and the high school artists, benefit because they worked together to create something that they were able to share with others. 

These two projects are not the only ones that Rees’s students create to benefit the community. For nine years, his students have created pottery to donate to “Bowls For Humanity,” an annual fundraiser sponsored by Provo’s Food and Care Coalition to help the homeless.

Rees, who is involved with and a supporter of BYU ARTS Partnership, believes strongly in the benefits of the arts in the schools.  In addition to the arts being a vehicle for community connection, they are also a means of integrating multiple curricular areas. Participation in the arts helps to build empathy and connections outside of school, according to Rees. “Arts are directly applicable outside the classroom,” he said.
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The Art of Integrating Dance: Chris Roberts

The Art of Integrating Dance: Chris Roberts

Written By Laura Giles

Chris Roberts, Arts Integration Coach for the Provo City School District, is teaching other teachers how to integrate the arts into their teaching to bring the excitement back into learning. He is doing this through the art of dance. Roberts has worked in the classroom of every teacher in the Provo City School District who has participated in the Arts Leadership Academy or earned the Arts Integration Endorsement.

Roberts has taught in elementary schools since 1978, beginning in the Nebo School District. He now works side-by-side with teachers in all elementary school grades to provide dance integration instruction, giving teachers the courage to continue using dance with their teaching long after he has moved on to another class. The children love his energy and enthusiasm, and they learn to love dance while grasping concepts more strongly in all curricular areas because of the arts integration.

Although his dance influence is strong, dance was not always such an important part of his teaching. Roberts’s youngest daughter was involved with Brigham Young University’s Creative Dance for Children program from the ages of 4 to 17. This is when a spark was ignited in Roberts. He was the designated carpool driver for her and two friends.

“Instead of sitting in the car waiting, I would go in and watch the class,” he said. “As the years progressed, I saw the creativity, problem-solving skills, cooperation skills, and self-confidence grow in my daughter.”

In 1991, Roberts and a fellow teacher wrote a grant to the Utah Arts Council (now the Utah Division of Arts and Museums) and were able to bring an artist-in-residence to their school. It was Doris Trujillo. She spent ten days at the school teaching dance to their students, and at the end of her residency she left them the book First Steps in Teaching Creative Dance to Children, by Mary Joyce.

“The next week, I took my students into the gym and did lesson one with them,” Roberts remembers. “I literally held the book in my hand and read what it said to say to students.” After that, he began to take workshops on how to teach dance to children and, eventually, he began teaching the workshops himself.

“Marilyn Berrett heard about me and observed me while I was teaching dance to my students. She began bringing BYU students to observe me,” Roberts said. Berrett, a professor of dance at BYU, got Roberts involved in UDEO (Utah Dance Education Organization) where he was elected as elementary representative and served for six years. She also got him involved in daCi (dance and the Child international,) where he was elected as member-at-large for three years, became chair-elect for three years, national chair for five years, and is now serving as national representative.

Roberts and Berrett presented in Brazil at a daCi international gathering and in Albuquerque and Long Beach at NDEO (National Dance Education Organization) conferences. “Because of many great mentors and strong women pushing me, I got more and more involved and was awarded the Governor’s Leadership in the Arts Award in 2012,” Roberts said.

One way that Roberts loves to teach through dance is by integrating the art with children’s books. “Teachers will take a book and look at the illustrations and text for inspiration for dance. It makes the book come alive for students,” he said.

He also said that science has many ways to naturally add dance to help students learn concepts. For example, fourth-grade teachers love to teach weathering and erosion through dance.

Deborah Raymond teaches a sixth grade gifted/accelerated class at Sunset View Elementary in Provo. Her students from last year actually started dancing with Roberts the year before, when they were fifth graders. According to their fifth-grade teacher, they were very awkward and self-conscious when they first started.

“When school began last year, we'd only been in session for a few days when the students started asking me if they were going to be able to continue dance class with Mr. Roberts. I didn't know what they were talking about, so I asked, and they couldn't say enough about how much they loved learning to move in such creative ways and began begging me to make sure they would be able to keep dance in the schedule,” Raymond said.

“He very generously made room for us. Chris has so much respect and kindness in his teaching style. I'm sure that is the biggest reason the students continued dancing,” she said. “At a time when students are becoming more aware and catapulting into a hyper-awareness of their bodies, Chris taught them to be comfortable and gave them tools for expression with the very part of themselves that they were most awkward with.”

Raymond said that her students looked forward to dance every week and were disappointed if it ever had to be cancelled. “Some of the students felt the benefits included helping them communicate better with their friends and family because they had learned to handle themselves in a dignified way during dance,” she said.

“Integrating the arts is important because of what it gives to many students that usually don't shine in typical educational environments,” Roberts said. “It brings joy into learning.”

Laura Giles is a lover of all things art, a first-grade teacher in Alpine School District, a writer for The Daily Herald newspaper, an Arts Leadership Academy graduate, and has earned the Arts Integration Endorsement from Brigham Young University. She can be reached at

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