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Arts Integration

15 Years of Shakespeare in the Valley!

15 Years of Shakespeare in the Valley!

AN ARTSPACE JOURNEY – John Hall, 6th Grade Language Arts and Social Studies Teacher

I began my teaching job at ArtSpace Charter School in the fall of 2003, after almost three years teaching at West McDowell Junior High.  Before I became a teacher, I worked in professional theatre as an actor, director and producer.  Through my experience with children’s theatre, I experienced the power of creative dramatics with young people. When I began teaching at ArtSpace, a school dedicated to integrating the arts with the standard course of study, I knew I could utilize my theatre background in the classroom.  So, in my first year as a language arts and social studies teacher at ArtSpace I worked with our drama specialist Josh Batenhorst to introduce the works of William Shakespeare to sixth and seventh grade.  Why Shakespeare? Integrating the plays of William Shakespeare into the language arts and socials studies curriculum allowed me to teach figurative language, poetry and storytelling to students within a historical and social context, and it allowed our drama specialist to teach the theatre arts curriculum as well. Plus, it was fun!

Female student standing next to an older man with a clipboard on a stage

Mr. Hall giving notes to a student in the 2015-2016 production of The Merry Wives of Windsor

Our first productions, Hamlet (7th grade) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (6th grade) took place in my classroom.  We used shortened versions of the plays, with slightly altered translations of the text to make them more accessible to students. It was a challenging endeavor, to say the least, though ultimately a success and the feedback from students, families and staff encouraged me to continue the yearly project.  Since ArtSpace, a fairly new school in the early 2000’s, didn’t yet have its own theatre, the next few years we rented spaces from local venues such as NC Stage Company, Belk Theatre at UNCA and The Asheville School to perform our Shakespeare plays.  Our productions grew in ambition, and students even performed scenes for a retirement home in nearby Black Mountain.  After a few years, Josh (Captain Josh as we all called him) challenged me to drop the slightly-altered versions and have students perform the true Shakespearean texts. Working solely with sixth graders at that point, I was concerned students might struggle with the difficult words, but ultimately agreed that the beauty of Shakespeare’s imagery and writing was worth the struggle.  It was a wise move, and the experience of hearing Shakespeare’s soaring language coming from our students was magical.

In our new theatre space that opened in 2008, sixth graders have tackled such plays as Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, Romeo & Juliet, Richard III, MacBeth, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry V, As You Like It and The Comedy of Errors (set in the Star Wars universe no less!)  Captain Josh left ArtSpace a few years ago, but our current drama specialist Beth Lexa has continued working with sixth grade to bring Shakespeare’s plays to the stage.

Two female middle school students standing on stage wearing Elizabethan clothing

From the 2016-2017 production of The Merchant of Venice

Not only does utilizing Shakespeare’s works enable me to teach language and oral expression in a historical context, the plays are also able to be used as vehicles to address social and ethical issues.  For example, last year’s sixth graders performed The Merchant of Venice and The Taming of the Shrew, two highly controversial plays – Merchant for its anti-Semitism, and Shrew for its sexism.  Because I knew we’d be performing these plays in March, I began the school year focusing on the theme of “status” and how ancient cultures developed social systems based on levels of status, often regarding gender. Furthermore, when we began preparing for our plays, students conducted interviews with family members regarding moments in their lives when they were aware of status, and how that awareness affected them. The results of these family conversations were astounding. Parents and grandparents related experiences of gender inequality and racial profiling, among other memories.  Students also studied the history of anti-Semitism and how it spread over Europe and eventually the U.S. In fact, at the same time students were rehearsing The Merchant of Venice, the U.S. saw an uptick in anti-Semitic hate crimes.  Though not always pleasant, this exploration of status in ancient cultures and our own society deepened students’ understanding of the two plays they were performing as well as the human proclivity for exclusion and alienation.

What has been the legacy of fifteen years of Shakespeare in the Swannanoa Valley? Former students and parents of former students relate stories of how their experiences with Shakespeare’s plays in sixth grade at ArtSpace positively affected their lives.  Several former students are still performing on stage in high school and college, and tell us that their love of theatre and performance began with their sixth grade Shakespeare plays. Though our yearly Shakespeare plays have given students the opportunity to develop a love of performing, they’ve also given struggling students an opportunity to experience success where they haven’t in traditional academics. Some of my best memories from the Shakespeare plays have been when struggling students or students with special needs were able to achieve success and receive positive feedback from peers.  The confidence these students received from their success in the plays stuck with them, affecting other areas of their learning and their lives.  These memories are most gratifying.

So, as March approaches, ArtSpace sixth grade is once again in preparation for our Shakespeare plays. As in 2003, our plays will be Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  To quote from Hamlet, “The play’s the thing!”

This article can also be found online at the Black Mountain News


8th Graders at ArtSpace Make Chemistry Visual

8th Graders at ArtSpace Make Chemistry Visual

An example of an elemental trading card

All across North Carolina 8th grade students learn about the basics of chemistry, as it is a major focus of the NC Essential Science Standards.  Students explore the periodic table of elements, what the labels mean, and how the table is organized. Students also investigate the structure of an atom and the types of atomic bonds, as well as the basics of a balanced chemical equation after a reaction.

At ArtSpace Charter School 8th graders discover, think deeply about, and experiment with these concepts through several visual arts projects facilitated by their teacher Nick Rogowski.  One of these projects is to represent the properties, and atomic information of a specific element, by producing an elemental trading card. After exploring the information presented about each element presented in the periodic table, the students research the origins and organization of the periodic table.  To assess their understanding Mr. Nick assigns a painting in which students create artistic metaphors to represent the categories and organization of the Periodic Table.

Organization of the periodic table painting

Brochure about different types of molecular bonds

Next students move beyond the elements to an exploration of molecular bonds.  Students create a “travel

brochure” to solidify their understanding. One of the final concepts students investigate in 8th-grade chemistry is the “balancing of elements” after a chemical reaction.  8th graders at ArtSpace observe the work of sculptor Alexander Calder and create mobiles of balanced chemical equations.

Certainly, all of this science could be studied in a textbook, and a few short answer questions might suffice to assess basic understanding of this unit, but students at ArtSpace create connections between science and visual art, which helps solidify deeper understanding, as well as allowing them to be creative as they demonstrate their knowledge. Through visual art projects teacher Nick Rogowski has also required his students to synthesize the information they have learned at a much more sophisticated level than short answer questions ever could.  That’s the power of arts integration!

Examples of Alexander Calder inspired balanced equation mobiles



Red Meander Project and Old Depot Association

Red Meander Project and Old Depot Association

ArtSpace Charter School  is once again grateful for the support of The Old Depot Association of Black Mountain for supporting a public works project that is an homage to the mountain valley in which the school is located. In the 2016-17 school year Visual Art Specialist Jocelyn Reese applied for and received a grant from the Association for the supplies to create an outdoor art piece inspired by the fiber artist Anni Albers.

Ms. Jocelyn felt an exterior breezeway supported by horizontal joists outside the arts wing lent itself perfectly to creating an art piece inspired by the weaving Red Meander, by Anni Albers.  The installation features rows of color on 25 joists that have been painted to mimic Albers’ design.   Anni Albers was a professor at the famed Bauhaus in Germany before its forced close.  She and her husband Joseph were professors at the arts based Black Mountain College from 1933-1949.

Ms. Jocelyn is eager to use this large scale visual work to teach students about weaving elements, geometry, rhythm and unity.  Of course this piece offers students, and other members of the community an example of local art history as well.  The installation was painted by ArtSpace parent and local artist Lara Nguyen and several of her students from Warren Wilson College.

In addition to paint supplies, Ms. Jocelyn requested funds to create signs that explain the significance of the installation, pay homage to Anni Albers, as well as thanking those who made the installation possible. ArtSpace is grateful to Lara, her students and to The Old Depot for supporting this project.

The ArtSpace Community is thankful for the continued support from the Old Depot Association over the years.  Students have had many varied arts opportunities from visiting artist experiences to hands on arts projects due to the dedication of the Association.

The Old Depot Association will be hosting the 20th annual juried art show “Art on the Tracks” on Sutton street, October 28th,

Executive Director Lori Cozzi Receives the Gerry D. Howell A+ Educator of the Year Award from A+ Schools of North Carolina Program

Executive Director Lori Cozzi Receives the Gerry D. Howell A+ Educator of the Year Award from A+ Schools of North Carolina Program

Last week A+ Schools of North Carolina named Lori Cozzi, Executive Director of ArtSpace Charter School, the 2017 Gerry D. Howell A+ Educator of the Year.  What follows is the article posted on the A+ Schools Network blog.

“Lori Cozzi, Executive Director of ArtSpace Charter School in Swannanoa, was named 2017 Gerry D. Howell A+ Educator of the Year at an A+ Network webinar on Thursday, May 4. Ms. Cozzi has served the ArtSpace community for 14 years — first as an arts integration specialist, then as a program coordinator, and for the past 10 years as the director. The award recognizes an A+ educator who best exemplifies the values of A+ Schools of North Carolina and its philosophies.

Ms. Cozzi has been an educator for more than 30 years, and the arts have been at the core of her teaching and central to the educational programs and professional development she has provided in her many roles. She also believes in the power of the A+ Essentials and how they offer students opportunities to fully engage in the classroom. “Engagement is critical to student success,” Ms. Cozzi shared in her personal statement. “Students want to ‘do,’ to create, to shine and share. My classrooms and the school I lead, the workshops I present, all offer students the opportunity to think deeply and creatively, make connections to the world, and learn with their bodies, minds and hearts.”

Under Ms. Cozzi’s leadership, ArtSpace has developed a highly successful infrastructure that truly supports collaboration among staff allowing for deeply integrated and meaningful experiences for their students. Ms. Cozzi’s purposeful, collaborative planning schedule allows grade level teachers, arts specialists, the assistant director and director to meet once per month to develop quarterly and year-long plans, brainstorm on school-wide projects and exchange ideas that often blossom into highly engaging, successful lesson plans involving several members of ArtSpace’s community. These meetings are “sacred” and ArtSpace staff understand that nothing takes priority over the collaborative planning schedule. “These meetings serve as the cog in the wheel of collaboration at ArtSpace and are intrinsic to the success of our school,” writes Lyn Van Over, 6th grade teacher, and one of the many staff who nominated Ms. Cozzi for the award. “The planning involved to make sure teachers are able to attend these meetings is awe inspiring.” Ms. Cozzi has presented at multiple professional conferences to share her vision and strategy for making successful collaborative planning part of her school community.

Recently, Ms. Cozzi collaborated with a new third grade teacher at ArtSpace to model a deeply integrated project that also gave her the opportunity to stay connected to her students in a classroom setting. The project, entitled “Spectacular Spirals,” provided students with an arts integrated experience that included visual art, dance, language arts, science and math while supporting her new classroom teacher with the tools to build a successful integrated unit. This is just one example of Ms. Cozzi’s dedication to her students and staff and her belief that “the arts are uniquely capable of providing students and teachers with a wide variety of opportunities for growth.”

When reflecting on the impact of A+ on her own school, Ms. Cozzi shared, “When fully embraced by a school community, the A+ philosophy becomes something to believe in and aspire to. A+, when done well, can become a common vision, bringing a school into alignment and focus, unifying its parts.”

Ms. Cozzi holds a degree in elementary education and a master of science in art education. She is also national board certified as a middle childhood generalist. She has been an A+ Fellow since 1999 and serves as an A+ Liaison to several of our A+ schools in the western part of the state.

As the 2017 A+ Educator of the Year, Ms. Cozzi will receive classroom arts products generously donated by Crayola, will attend NCCAT’s Leadership Academy with other statewide and district Educators of the Year, and will serve as an “ambassador” for the A+ Schools of North Carolina for the upcoming school year.

The Gerry D. Howell A+ Educator of the Year Award was created in memory of Gerry D. Howell, long-time A+ Schools executive director and the inspiration behind the creative teaching and learning of countless educators, administrators and students across N.C. To honor her legacy, each year the A+ Schools selects one dedicated A+ educator who best exemplifies these values of the A+ Schools of North Carolina and its philosophies.” (posted with the permission of the A+ Schools Network).


The Little Prince: Time Bandits – A Multilayered Performance

The Little Prince: Time Bandits – A Multilayered Performance
One of the Little Prince's

One of the LIttle Prince’s

Recently 4th grade students at ArtSpace Charter School performed an original multi-layered social studies play entitled “The Little Prince Time Bandits”.  This piece combined puppet theater segments adapted from Antoine St. Exupery’s existential fable, The Little Prince and scenes that illustrated historical moments and people of North Carolina as Europeans settled and clashed with indigenous peoples.  

Ms. Tonya, 4th grade social studies and language arts teacher, shared The Little Prince with her students early in the school year.  They spent time diving into the “moral of the story” as the Little Prince encountered the many characters in his story. IMG_6656As they explored the Little Prince in language arts, students were learning about NC history beginning with the natural history, and ending with westward expansion of the United States. Ms. Tonya watched her students make connections to the archetype characters in The Little Prince to the people in NC history. With the necessary background knowledge in their “toolboxes” students wrote scripts, created the puppets and and stages for the puppet segments which technology teacher Steve Lipe helped film.

The stage action in the productions was written using excerpts


One of the puppet theaters. Students are preparing to film their segment.

from poems and historical fiction the 4th graders had written from the perspective of the plants and animals of Pisgah Forest, the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears, and Daniel Boone.

This experience offered 4th graders at ArtSpace a layered exploration of the patterns of change in history and character development in fiction.  The students applied the information they learned through their research and reading to a dramatic production they will never forget.  When asked what they enjoyed the most about the production, the students were eager to share.  “I

A dance representation of the Cherokee Trail of Tears

A dance representation of the Cherokee Trail of Tears

loved making the puppet stages for the videos,” one student exclaimed.  Another student said they enjoyed collaborating with their friends to make the puppet pieces happen.  Students were also asked how they thought the lessons of the Little Prince and the experience of North Carolinians in history could apply today. One student summed it up and said if we could apply the moral of the story from the play today, things would be a lot nicer. The moral of the story is summed up by the closing dialogue of two railroad engineers contemplating the stories they have just watched. “Perhaps the children are lucky because they know it is all about time.  When you spend time getting to know a person, creating a work of art, or building a railroad, it becomes very important to you. . . You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. “


ArtSpace Grateful for Partnership with Old Depot Association

ArtSpace Grateful for Partnership with Old Depot Association

Over the years ArtSpace Charter School has depended on the generosity of various community organizations to support special programming that would not be affordable otherwise.  ArtSpace is very grateful for their continued relationship with the Old Depot Association in Black Mountain, who has funded several projects for ArtSpace through their yearly education grants. These grants have afforded many art opportunities for ArtSpace students through performances, workshops by visiting artists and purchasing materials for large scale arts projects.

record album flower garden public art piece

record album flower garden public art piece

For example, in 2008 the Open Dream Ensemble shared their performances with the entire student body and held workshops for various grade levels in their classrooms. In 2014 world renowned percussionist Beverly Botsworth performed for the entire student body and worked closely with 2nd and 6th graders weaving percussion concepts into other curriculum areas in their classroom.  In addition, teachers at every grade level were grateful to receive a teacher focused workshop from Ms. Botsworth.

Half of the Scott Allred mural.

Half of the Scott Allred mural.

ArtSpace was able to fund the design and implementation of a Scott Allred mural that spans the first main hallway of their building with an Old Depot grant and grant funds allowed us to build a raised stage in our dedicated theatre space, making performances more accessible for audiences and performers a like.

In the 2014-15 school year the school received the grant for a public art project. Under the guidance of Executive Director, Lori Cozzi, all students recycled record albums by painting them and converting them into a flower.  The students’ flowers were compiled together to create a garden that was on display along the playground in the front of campus.

These are just a few examples of the many projects The Old Depot Association has funded over the years.  ArtSpace is so very grateful to this organization!




Professional Development in the Arts Offers Teachers New Skills

Professional Development in the Arts Offers Teachers New Skills

Each year ArtSpace Charter School schedules early release days as a part of the school calendar.  When the students go home the teachers stay to plan, meet with other teachers, and most often to attend professional development workshops to learn more about effective teaching.  In December teachers chose to attend one of two arts workshops offered by teaching peers at ArtSpace.  Teachers either attended a printmaking workshop or a music and dance language workshop.  


1st grade teacher Ms. Claire inks up a fish for a print.

The intention of these workshops was to give the general education teachers more tools to integrate the arts in their own classrooms, creating more opportunities for two-way integration.  Two-way integration means arts objectives and “academic” objectives from the NC Essential Standards and/or the Common Core, are taught in conjunction with each other. Two-way integration is a consistent goal at ArtSpace and other A+ Schools who seek to use arts integration as a philosophical approach to educating children.

Kindergarten teacher Andrea Giglitto and third grade teacher Melissa Redden were two of the printmaking workshop facilitators.  These teachers received a scholarship to attend a week long retreat hosted by the Nature Printing Society at Wild Acres in Little Switzerland, NC earlier this school year.  It is a common occurrence for teachers at ArtSpace to teach workshops after returning from a professional development opportunity off campus.  Teachers and administrators at the school are always seeking new and interesting arts integration trainings that can be shared with the entire community upon their return. Ms. Melissa and Ms. Andrea rotated staff through a fish printing class and a basic brayer class, while ArtSpace parent and Nature Printing Society Education Coordinator, Bridget Benton, taught staff how to use a pasta machine as a printing press with watercolors. In Bridget’s class, participants also were exposed to ecodying with a rice steamer over the course of the afternoon.

Music and Dance Specialists Meg Boerner and Rebecca Triplett shared samples of music and dance recordings to illustrate vocabulary important to dance and music creation and performance.  Teachers who attended this workshop can use this information when assessing students in projects using dance to demonstrate knowledge of a unit.  Middle school science teachers Nick


Kindergarten teacher Ms. Rebekah helps a student create a print.

Rogowski and Lyn VanOver are happy to have vocabulary to use with the kids as they create movement or dance pieces in their classroom. Middle school language arts teacher Leila Wheless is eager to use the terminology in conjunction with the writing process.

Kindergarten teacher Rebekah Walker was very excited to attend the printmaking workshop.  She employed some of the techniques she learned with her kindergartners just days later.  She is also looking forward to employing Gyotaku (fish) printing to compare and contrast characteristics of animals which is a large part of the kindergarten science curriculum.

Silk Road Bazaar in Western North Carolina!

Silk Road Bazaar in Western North Carolina!

A Silk Road buddhist poet explaining his inspiration to become a poet.

Right before winter break sixth graders at ArtSpace journeyed back in time to Samarkand and the Great Silk Road of 650 CE.  Students have spent several weeks studying the bustling trade industry and the cultures that made up the Silk Road.  After their initial research students created individual personas someone could have encountered in Samarkand.  These characters included, but weren’t limited to,  innkeepers, buddhist monks, spice, wool and of course silk traders.

Attendants at this Silk Road Bazaar living museum were free to wander amongst the students and ask them questions about the products they were trading or the positions they held in Samarkand.  Sixth graders did an amazing job staying in character.  Finn Mahoney remained ever serious as he shared aspects of his life as a persian soldier protecting merchants from thievery.


Students performing a traditional indian dance

Sixth grade band members worked with music teacher Meg Boerner and performed a traditional Japanese piece.  Dance students from sixth grade studied and performed several dances under the guidance of dance teacher Rebecca Triplett. These dances originated from China, India, and Europe and were commonly performed on the Silk Road.
The Silk Road Bazaar is a new unit developed by sixth grade language arts and social studies teacher John Hall.  In the past the focus of the Medieval unit was European, and students hosted a Medieval Faire that included performances of mystery plays common during the Middle Ages.  Mr. Hall enjoyed teaching this unit but felt the concept of the Silk Road and focusing on the theme “an exchange of ideas” would require sixth graders to explore the diverse cultures and religions that existed all over the world during Medieval times.

A+ Schools National Consortium Visits ArtSpace

A+ Schools National Consortium Visits ArtSpace

SWANNANOA, NC, October 4, 2016-  Last week leadership from the A+ Schools National Consortium visited ArtSpace Charter School to explore the culture of arts integration in a school with experience.  According to their website, Aa+ Schools of NC “helps schools transform themselves using the arts as a catalyst for making teaching and learning engaging, creative and enjoyable.” ArtSpace joined the A+ Schools Network in the 2012-2013 school year to support their mission as well as network with other schools around the country who have chosen to use arts integration as their philosophical approach to educating children.  

The visitors were welcomed to ArtSpace with a song performed by all of the kindergartners.  The consortium group held a meeting regarding future plans for the A+ Schools program, and ArtSpace ED Lori Cozzi and 6th grade language arts and social studies teacher John Hall, presented information about ArtSpace followed by a tour of the campus.  Visitors were then invited to explore the building independently and invited to see teachers and students in action.