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Cook and Annunciation art students get boost from grant


Carmen K. Sisson



Cook Elementary Fine Arts Magnet School, already a model school for arts integration, has received a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission to continue the program and build upon the foundation they've developed over the past few years.  


The $8,600 grant was announced earlier this month and will be used to promote dance, drama, art and music, using the arts to teach academic benchmarks. The program, which was founded by the Arts Commission in 1991, was developed as a response to the "back to basics" school reform, according to the program's website.  


Instead of teaching arts as a standalone program, the Whole Schools Initiative incorporates the arts into every aspect of the school curriculum, from math to science, providing fine arts instruction by certified arts specialists.  


This is the fourth year Cook has received the grant. Initial grants were used to develop an Arts in the Classroom program, with the Whole Schools Initiative being the next level of integrating fine arts into the curriculum.  


Arts are critical to students' education, said Lois Kappler, former principal of Cook. The grant funds things like teacher training and has met the school's specialized needs, including subsidizing musicals and plays, purchasing a new sound system and bringing prominent Mississippi artists to the school to interact with the children.  


Kappler, who wrote the grant application, said she had hoped the school would receive $10,000, but with arts funding experiencing deep cuts across the state, she's happy with the amount Cook received.  


"The initial grant was very small, but it was wonderful and helped Cook develop into a fine arts magnet school," Kappler said. "We couldn't have done it without them. (The arts) are just so instrumental. They increase a child's academic experiences, and I'm so excited Cook got this grant." 


The grant application process is extremely competitive, and Cook's continued success in receiving funding for the Whole Schools Initiative is an "outstanding" accomplishment which required cooperation and communication between both teachers and leadership teams, Columbus Municipal School District Superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell said Monday morning.  


Annunciation Catholic School has also been part of the Arts in the Classroom program over the past few years and hopes to become a Whole School next year, said Annunciation curriculum coordinator Jacquelyn Junkins.  


Last year, Annunciation received a $1,000 grant from the Arts Commission to continue their program. 


Instructors used the funding to advance students' creative writing and expository skills.  


This year, they have received a $2,000 grant to continue the Arts in the Classroom program.  


"We at Annunciation Catholic School believe arts education is a vital aspect of a child's mental development and learning experience," Junkins said. "Integrating the arts into our curriculum helps students reach full potential. The arts help students become more aware of their world and their surroundings."


Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.



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