This year, Excelsior received a $20,000 grant from the South Carolina Department of Education as a Distinguished Arts Program.
“We are just completing our second year of this type of grant funding,” Dr. Gunter said. “We are so pleased to be able to increase our technology with the introduction of Smart boards to our school in five key areas. We are also excited about our artist in residency program.”
The school has had two artists from the South Carolina Arts Commission funded through this program.
“Nationally recognized sculptor Bob Doster and folk musician John Fowler have had a positive impact at our school,” Dr. Gunter said. “Research has shown that getting artists into the schools helps to improve critical thinking skills in students and promotes a positive school climate. We want students to become life-long learners and to realize that the arts are important to the quality of life that we have in our community.”
One of the projects Doster and the students worked on was to craft two metal benches.
“One has a tiger on it and they can take it with them when they go to the new Sims,” Dr. Gunter said. The tiger is the mascot at Sims Jr. High.
Arts teacher Shannon Farr, who will attend the South Carolina Curriculum Leadership, which is funded through a state grant, said fine arts teachers look for ways to strengthen and promote the arts.
“One way is through integrating art and music into the regular classroom or integrating traditional academic subjects like math and English into the arts classroom,” she said.
Excelsior Middle School also won a $7,000 grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission as an “Arts Basic Curriculum Site.” This ABC Grant is made possible by funding from the commission, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Dr. Gunter said a substantial amount of this year's ABC Grant is funding a four-week residency by writer Heather Magruder to work with fifth grade Language Arts teachers on poetry and other forms of creative writing.
“It is wonderful to have a professional writer come and work with students so they can see the importance of writing in their adult life and why they need to work so hard to develop their abilities,” said Language Arts teacher Brooke Johnson. “Ms. Magruder adds an extra dash of excitement.”
Dr. Gunter said the arts are one of the most successful vehicles for improving productivity and creativity.
“If we can keep students interested and engaged in the learning process, we can keep them in school and improve the efforts of our community, state and nation to bring about greater productivity and creativity.”