Grant Center for Expressive Arts

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Arts-infused curriculum engages elementary school students  

When you attend an arts-focused school, prepare for drama, dance or drawing to pop into your lessons at any moment. 
 
First-grade students reading Roald Dahl’s classic book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” transformed into architects for an hour when their teacher asked them to create the factory out of colorful construction paper shapes.
 
“Use your imagination. What do you think Charlie’s chocolate factory might look like?” teacher Cathryn Carini asked the class. “There’s only one rule – you have to use at least one of each shape we talked about during math.”
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​Aiden Gordon creates Charlie's Chocolate Factory.
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Grant Center for the Expressive Arts naturally infuses art into the classroom. The school incorporates art into the same K-5 curriculum found in all Tacoma elementary schools to boost students’ attention and enjoyment of schoolwork. 
 
“Learning with art is physical, hands-on and expressive,” Principal Steve Holmes said. “Research shows that the more expressive learning kids have, the more they lock that learning into their memory.” 
 
Grant students perform for classmates, teachers and parents at least once every year, culminating in the fifth-grade class performance of a musical at the Tacoma Little Theater. Students also join clubs such as jazz, ballet, unicycle, Black Belt Recorder Ensemble (for students who earn their “black belt” playing recorder) and Troubadours singers. 
 

Art for every learner

Light bounces off the wall-length mirror in Grant’s dance studio and beams onto the faces of grinning kindergarten and first-grade students.

Students glide, twirl and skip around the room as teacher Diana Sailer calls out instructions. “Listen so you can feel the music in your feet just like Bojangles did, remember?” she says, referring to the famous dancer of early 20th century motion pictures. 

Sailer helped Grant transform into an arts-focused school in 1995 and strongly appreciates the arts emphasis. She recalls one student struggling to write his name until he took an art class about lines. He suddenly realized an “A” was really two straight lines and a line across. 
 
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​Eavan Kirk enjoys dance class.
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“It just clicked with him,” she said. “I love the way art helps kids to learn in different ways.”

Grant also offers a quiet place called “The Nest” for children on the Autism spectrum. A team of specialists runs the room as a quiet area where students can settle down if they get too stimulated, work on assignments and learn support strategies for the classroom.  

Building a new space  

Thanks to the school bond passed by voters in 2013, Tacoma Public Schools’ plans to replace Grant with a completely new building, with construction starting in June 2018.  

Currently, students perform extensively on the stage in their gymnasium – affectionately termed the “cafegymatorium” for its triple duty as a cafeteria, gymnasium and auditorium. The school also hosts two pottery kilns and the walls pop with art projects on display. 

 
First-grade students Sophia Ford and Lyric Newsome especially love dance class. “I dance at home, but I like dancing here because it’s the best room. It’s so big,” Sophia said. 

“I like how you can express your moves,” said Lyric, who anticipates taking on bigger roles in school performances. “I loved the fifth-grade play because they were all dressed in costumes.” ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

​Get to know Grant

Innovation Model: Grant Center for the Expressive Arts develops high academic achievement and positive social skills by integrating the arts into all core subject areas. The approach provides opportunities for self-expression, collaboration and interdisciplinrary learning. All K-5 students perform at a school event during the school year.

Students best served: Elementary school students eager to draw, dance, sing, paint and otherwise incoroprate art into the K-5 curriculum.

Grades: Kindergarten through fifth

Students: 447  

Teacher training: Grant teachers utlize training resources from ArtsEd Washington and Arts Impact, and many have special skills in the arts, from teaching dance to painting.

School Report Card 

School Web site 

Special clubs and after-school programs: Before School Dance Technique · Black Belt Recorder Ensemble ·Dance Company · The Nest ·Troubadors singers · Track team ·  Unicycle · Walk to Enrichment

Designated Innovative School - Washington State