By Cristina Carreon // Photo by Lauren Wood
Leah Patterson grew up in an artistic household alongside her father, a woodworker, who often enlisted her to help creating lettering designs. After having her son, she realized she wanted to be a teacher and went back to school. Patterson has been teaching art to children ever since.
Patterson has been teaching for 15 years and teaches art to kindergarten through fourth-grade students at Anderson Elementary School in Booneville. She also works with other teachers to create programs that bring music to the students.
“We try to mix all of the arts, so we have music and movement in a program for each grade per year,” Patterson said. These programs often feature social themes taken from fairytales, such as those often found in Disney films. Themes might be ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ as told through “Beauty & The Beast,” or ‘we are all united in the grand scheme of things’ as told through “The Lion King.”
Patterson said the children’s artwork beautifies the walls of the school. The students also help create murals, such as a large piece recently created that features ocean life alongside a quote that reads ‘in diversity, there is beauty and there is strength,’ which is a quote from Maya Angelou.
“We make it a point to display their artwork because then they begin to value it too,” Patterson said.
The school recently received a grant from a local Lowe’s home improvement store to upgrade a small courtyard for students to enjoy during special occasions. The students are creating a garden environment with winding walks and wildflowers painted on the wall with inspirational quotes.
Patterson said arts integration – whether that means learning how to play an instrument, draw, sing or perform in a drama – helps students at all academic levels. She said arts integration is about breaking the mold of sitting at a desk and reading.
“Real arts integration and real teaching to me, is having kinesthetic, tactile and real hands on learning, and art naturally does that,” Patterson said.
“As long as they are learning, understanding and internalizing the information, that is real learning.”