By: Cheryl West-Hicks
King Edward Elementary is proud to have Arts Enrichment at the core of their program. Learning is enhanced in all subject areas by incorporating art. Many studies have demonstrated that by integrating the arts into education, long-term retention is improved. The students and staff are fortunate to have multiple artists in residence visit the school. There is a large range of artists such as musicians, dancers, stained glass artists, carvers, sculptors and painters. One such artist is also a beloved neighborhood resident, Berna.
Berna studied Fine Arts at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary and earned a B. Ed from U of A with a major in art. Berna’s long list of teaching experiences, both in and outside of the school system, include 10 years teaching Junior high, her business Artagogo, working at the City Arts Center and developing their arts masters program for 6-12.
Berna was the Chair of the Parent Council when the school made the switch to Arts Enrichment. When her son left the school for grade 7 she made the decision to volunteer her time as an artist in residence. The students wait impatiently for Berna to make her rounds to their classrooms. Excited variations of “It’s Berna day!” can be heard around the neighborhood. Her program is a huge endeavor, taking almost a year to complete, with multiple visits to each classroom. “Getting to teach all of the kids every year gives me an opportunity to develop and build upon skills year after year. Right now I am working with kids for the fourth year in a row and getting to watch them grow as young artists is the best thing to me as a teacher.”
She takes a subject from each grade’s curriculum and works with the teacher to create a project that enhances the learning of that subject but also allows the kids to apply knowledge of colours, colour mixing, light, and dimension.
“I love doing this. I love the school and the kids and nothing makes you feel more special than riding your bike past a school ground at recess to a chorus of ‘Hi Berna’ from the kids out playing. It is the best feeling. I hope that I am giving them something of value that they will remember and use as they grow. It is my primary goal to give kids the skills they need to be life long participants in art.”
This article will occur in the June issue of the Old Strathcona community league newsletter.