Jenny Diersen, education director at the Kimball Art Center, said she and other Art Center officials worked with the Education Foundation to come up with lesson plans for the classes at each elementary.
"We created lesson plans that include the Utah CORE curriculum in these classes, whether we talk about an artist's birthday and use math to find out how old he or she would be if they were still alive today to using reading and writing to spell the artist's name or key words in their methods," Diersen said.
The project idea, she said, came about in May between the Education Foundation and Stefani Kimche, art specialist at Trailside Elementary School. When Kimche approached the Education Foundation with the idea, they said they loved it but could not do it alone. That is when they took the idea to the Kimball Art Center, because Education Foundation executive director Abby McNulty said it had the credibility to support and could create the excitement the program needed.
Kimche and the Education Foundation told the Kimball Art Center they needed to do something about the fact that some elementary schools in the district had an arts program while others didn't.
"The arts programs already established at a couple of the elementary schools were great volunteer-led programs but inconsistent," Kimche said.
Kimche then created 60 different lesson plans under the Utah Arts CORE guidelines. She said that the elementary program seemed too lenient so they aimed for the junior high-level guidelines so students would be prepared to enter middle school in fifth grade.
The Education Foundation and Kimball Art Center then approached the School District together with the idea and met with some of the elementary school principals to win support for the program. Once it was adopted by the District and all four elementary schools, the Education Foundation and the Kimball Arts Center compiled the funding by using portions of the donations made at the Education Foundation's Red Apple Gala and the Park City Kimball Arts Festival opening night gala.
The EVA Program will guarantee that all four elementary schools will have a stable arts program, according to Diersen. Each school hired a paid specialist who will work with administration to establish class length and frequency.
McNulty said that the volunteer-led programs had always been successful and wanted the same thing for the other elementary schools.
"We created the EVA Program because the other schools have had this sort of ebb and flow of arts programs," McNulty said. "Putting this program in place will make sure there is continuity and consistency at all of the schools."
Stefani Kimche will continue being the art specialist at Trailside Elementary School while Jeremy Ranch Elementary School hired Alison Watkins and Shelley Peters, and McPolin Elementary School and Parley's Park Elementary School hired Julie Finnegan. These art specialists will use the lesson plans created by Kimche, the Education Foundation and the Kimball Art Center.
The EVA Program is a five-year project, a sort of "pilot," Diersen said. Over the next five years, they will see how successful using arts as a new way for students to do well in CORE subjects turns out to be.
Diersen has conducted research in other school districts and found that arts programs whether it's the visual arts, music, dance or theater help students excel, while McNulty said she thinks the EVA program will help create a "well-rounded whole child."
"Having an education in the arts helps students to think outside of the box," McNulty said. "It teaches them new ways to think and solve problems."
Kimche said the biggest benefit students will receive from the arts program is the confidence to be creative and expressive. That way they will look forward to taking art classes in middle school and not be afraid to take art classes as electives in high school, she said.
"We just hope that this program will have lasting staying power," Kimche said. "It is a fun and cohesive learning experience for every elementary school student."
Diersen said the classes will be able to take field trips to the Kimball Art Center free of charge if they are learning about a certain artist whose work it has available for viewing. If they do not visit the Center on a field trip, they can visit individually on the weekends for free as well. She said she only hopes the district will continue to support the EVA program beyond its five-year "pilot."
"We are just so lucky to have such an artistic community in Park City," Diersen said. "The Kimball Art Center is extremely happy to offer this program, and we look forward to the next five years."