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Success Stories

ArtsCore Educators in Action

Art: A Universal Language

The following article was submitted by Huma Malik, ESOL Teacher, Oshkosh North, ArtsCore Collaborative Alum. The lesson detailed here was inspired by the Fairy House building technique that is introduced to each ACC cohort during the annual summer retreat. Malik took that strategy and modified it to help students explore Native American cultures and, in doing so, found a way to unite her students across language barriers.

Oshkosh North High School offers a Social Studies Foundation Atlas class designed to support students from refugee backgrounds in bridging educational gaps and acquiring English linguistic skills. The recent focus of the class has been the “First Americans” unit. The students learned about the major regions inhabited by Native Americans and their resource utilization for survival. In an engaging hands-on activity, students participated in constructing various Native American homes that represented different North American regions and cultures.

To facilitate this project, students were organized into diverse groups, each consisting of individuals who spoke various languages, and many of them have limited proficiency in English. The current languages spoken in the class include Swahili, Kinyarwanda, Arabic, Spanish, Dari, and Kibembe. Remarkably, the project underscored the beauty of transcending language barriers through the universal language of art. Despite linguistic diversity, students collaboratively came up with their own plans within their respective groups to build homes using the provided resources.

This creative endeavor not only showcased the students’ artistic expression but also provided valuable insights into their critical thinking abilities. The project highlighted the power of collaborative problem-solving and artistic expression as avenues for bridging gaps, fostering unity, and celebrating cultural diversity within the classroom. Special thanks are extended to Angela Larsen, ArtsCore mentor, and Bobbi Cummings, Oshkosh North IST coach, for their invaluable contributions in planning and actively engaging with the students on this project.

Drumming Across Cultures

by Sarah Phelps, Music Teacher, Badger Elementary

On October 30th and 31st, 2023, Salia and Maria Camara, Sara Lee Parker, and Robin Cardell came to Appleton Schools, Badger, Edison, Highlands, and Appleton Public Montessori elementary schools to teach 3rd graders about drumming, dancing, and singing from Guinea.

At the time, 3rd graders were completing a unit in Inquiry (social studies) curriculum called Global Connections. They learned map reading skills and vocabulary about continents and topographical features in their homerooms, and learned about music and dancing from cultures around the world in music class. Additionally, the students prepared for this experience by learning a song and drumming pattern from the celebration rhythm “Kuku” from the Susu people in Guinea, West Africa. Kuku is a celebratory song, dance, and drumming groove performed by children and communities in Guinea. In many African cultures, there are no separate words for dancing, drumming, or singing, but rather are all embodied within one word.

The students were highly engaged throughout the workshop and continue to ask their music teachers to sing, drum, and dance Kuku. Students at Badger will demonstrate their learning at their music concert in December. Working with culture bearers to share music and arts from around the world broadens our students’ perspectives in beautiful ways. It is an honor to be able to provide our students with windows to other cultures, as well as mirrors to reflect the lived experiences of some of our minoritized students.

Check out the videos of the students’ performances here.

Watercolor Wonders

Stephen Hilger, 4th and 5th grade teacher at ALPS Charter and Perry Tipler Middle School in Oshkosh and current ArtsCore Collaborative cohort member, recently made use of ArtsCore’s vast library of lesson plans in his own classroom. Stephen adapted a lesson found on our website to fit his own classroom needs as well as his arts integration capabilities: “I based my arts integration off Brooke Lepper’s (ArtsCore Collaborative Alum, 2nd Grade Teacher, OASD) ‘Watercolor Silhouettes: Writing About Fiction’ lesson plan on the ArtsCore website. Not being a confident artist myself and unsure of the resources I had, I thought watercolor would be a great entry into arts integration, as I knew I had supplies on hand. I simply searched the medium ‘watercolor’ and found Brooke’s lesson.”

“For years, I’ve been using the Wisconsin Biographies website to integrate social studies into Lucy Caulkins Narrative writing units. I’ve loved this website because it exposes students to meaningful stories that have big ideas behind them about important Wisconsinites that they have likely had no prior knowledge about. Traditionally, students would write their small moment personal narrative from the perspective of the Wisconsinite they choose to research. In Brooke’s original version of the Water Color Silhoutte lesson, students silhouette an important scene from a book and then write an important quote that shows the theme of the story. In my lesson, students created a silhouette of an important scene from the narrative they wrote and then picked an important piece of dialogue that shows the theme of their story. I also added watercolor technique lessons and color mixing to help teach students art skills to make them more successful in creating a watercolor backdrop that communicated the emotion of their scene.”

Participating in ArtsCore gave Stephen the confidence to try this arts integrated lesson, an area outside of his comfort zone, Stephen and his students “loved how the final project turned out.” Stephen began his arts instruction by exploring color and how it can be used to express emotion; they “mixed color wheels using the primary colors so students could understand analogous colors and what blends would work well.” The class spent a few days learning the basics of watercolor techniques before completing their pieces.

ArtsCore Partners

ArtsCore Adventures at the Paine: Creative Chemistry

by Mary Pleiss, Director of Education, Paine Art Center and Gardens

This fall, Mary Pleiss and Kelsey Raschke (Paine Educator) are working with permaculture artist Hannah Kallio and Oshkosh West High School instructor Stacey Frankenstein-Markon to pilot a new ArtsCore Adventure, Cyanotyping and Chemistry. Chemistry students learned about the elements of art and how they work together from Hannah Kallio, then visited the Paine to conduct a photo scavenger hunt for those elements. They also collected botanical samples from the Paine’s gardens and pressed them in books.

Back in their classroom, they used those botanicals to create cyanotypes, prints made by the sun on specially treated paper. They employed the elements of art as they arranged leaves, flowers, and feathers on the papers, and experimented with different substances to change the colors in their prints. The resulting projects are a great way for students to showcase their understanding of chemical processes and the elements of art—true arts integration in a truly engaging set of lessons (which can be found in the ArtsCore Lesson Plan Library).

ArtsCore Adventures are created via collaboration among interested teachers, the Paine’s education staff,
and local experts, and are funded via a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. If you have an idea for an arts integration project that could benefit from a field experience at the Paine, contact Mary Pleiss, at

Teaching of Art: Visual Arts and Social Studies Interdisciplinary Project

by Dr. Li-Hsuan Hsu, Associate Professor of Arts Integration, ArtsCore Principal Investigator

UW Oshkosh Elementary Education majors discovered elements and principles of art and design during a field trip at the Paine Art Center and Gardens. In this interdisciplinary project connecting visual arts and social studies, students identified one social issue that resonates with themselves and created an artwork representing important concepts of the social issue by incorporating 10 visual symbols in a unique composition inspired by their discoveries at the Paine. Based on their original artwork, students developed a K-5 lesson plan meeting Wisconsin state standards in both Social Studies and Visual Arts.

Elementary education majors stepped out of their comfort zones in artistic creation, exploring various drawing techniques and creating a thoughtful and meaningful artwork. Some of them were excited to use their artwork and lesson plan in their future classroom. One student shared in their assignment reflection that “I like the creation and the purpose behind this process. I felt that my artwork truly represents my social issue. I plan on framing this piece and hanging it up in my classroom someday, using it as a talking
point about mental health issues.” Another student wrote that “After completing the project, I felt creatively and morally satisfied because not only was I proud of my artistic effort and final product, but I also felt like I was able to express my sadness and frustration surrounding this social issue in a constructive way.”

It is essential for these students to be thoughtful about their identity as a teacher: connecting their authentic self to their teaching practice. This project encouraged them to expand their artistic skills and how visual arts can play a powerful role in student learning across subject areas. More importantly, students identified the impact they would like to create in future elementary classrooms. As an instructor, I am very proud to see how students make interdisciplinary connections through the creation of their artwork and lesson plan. The goal of this project was to guide students to practice arts-integrated learning, which helped them identify arts integration as effective instructional strategies that could benefit their future students. The pictures include the display of students’ artwork and original lesson plans developed in Fall 2023.

2023-24 ArtsCore Student Organization Member Graduates

Madison Brzezinski
7th Grade Math Teacher, Sabish Middle School

“ArtsCore has had a ton of impact on me as an educator, but the biggest has been seeing education through another lens. It has shown me another perspective, one that sometimes isn’t considered in a standard classroom. Arts integration allows education to be accessible for all students. ArtsCore opened the idea of arts integration, but also boosted my confidence as an educator. I have more tools in my toolbox, I have more resources and ideas for my lessons. I cannot thank ArtsCore enough. The ASO Board was also an excellent experience. It was very helpful and expanded my arts integration education. Not only that, but along with my ArtsCore internship in the New Voices Program through the Winnebago Area Literacy Council and serving as an ArtsCore Student Teaching Intern, I was able to learn and grow as a leader. These experiences allowed me to become more confident as an educator, by growing in areas that I was previously less confident in. I was also able to make connections with ArtsCore teachers in the field, so I was able to see what ArtsCore is like as an educator.”

Taylor Brzezinski
Art Teacher, Oshkosh North High School & Carl Traeger Middle School

“ArtsCore helped me build confidence as a teacher by putting me in contact with practicing teachers and school districts. Receiving the Future Teachers Scholarship got me involved in ArtsCore. I fell in love with ArtsCore’s ideas and beliefs after researching the organization, and I was so happy to have earned the scholarship. Being an ArtsCore member made me understand how important professional development is and how it can shape you as a teacher. Being on the ASO Board was another fantastic experience. I met like minded people and made lifelong friends through the board. It gave me great leadership experiences and practice working with other teachers and planning events. As an ArtsCore student teacher, I learned so much about how art speaks to people differently. Teachers would share difficulties about their students and were elated and surprised to learn that their students were the hardest workers and the most dedicated artists. Art heals.”

Ahna Doherty
Elementary Education

“I have not yet secured a teaching position but am looking in the Oshkosh and Appleton area in hopes of staying near ArtsCore teachers and eventually enrolling in ArtsCore collaborative. The ArtsCore Student Organization opened my eyes to what arts integration is and all of the different ways it can present itself in a classroom setting. In my ArtsCore student teaching internship, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with ArtsCore teachers and see what positive effects ArtsCore has on both students and staff. All students love arts integration!”

Willem Flaugher
General Music Teacher, Jefferson Elementary

“Being a member of the ArtsCore Student Organization has greatly enhanced my competence as an educator by providing me with innovative approaches to integrating common core and arts curriculum. Through collaborations with colleagues, I’ve discovered new ways to enrich my students’ lives, boosting my confidence in my teaching abilities. Receiving the Pre-Service Teachers Scholarship significantly enriched my college experience by providing me with the opportunity to collaborate and build a community with like-minded future teachers where we could exchange ideas and experiences, further enhancing our passion for arts- integrated education. Additionally, the scholarship alleviated financial burdens, allowing me to focus more on my studies and professional development within the field of education.”

Abby Kalina
5th Grade Cross Categorical Special Education, Neenah Middle School

“The ArtsCore Student Organization has given me tools to use in my classroom, which have helped me provide engaging instruction for my students. ASO has boosted my confidence to receive an On the Job Student Teaching position. Learning along with educators and pre- service educators has helped me improve my collaboration and leadership with my team. Overall, ASO shaped my college experience and has helped me achieve competence, have confidence and be resilient in my On the Job teaching and in my future classroom. I also had an awesome experience on the ASO Board. The board gave me an opportunity for leadership at UWO. The positions I held allowed me to have more opportunities within the College of Education and Human Services. It has also given me more access to professional development. I will always remember and cherish the relationships that I gained with the other board members and staff through the ArtsCore board. The Future Teachers Scholarship brought me into the ArtsCore community and family. I can’t imagine my college experience without being involved in ArtsCore. It has given me so many amazing opportunities.”

Allyssa Reeves
7th Grade Math and Language Arts Teacher, Park View Middle School

“I had the honor to serve as the treasurer for the ArtsCore Student Organization for two and a half years at UW Oshkosh. My position on the ASO board helped build my skills in collaboration, organization, and
leadership. I loved our board meetings because we worked together to plan events and increase the presence of ASO on campus, but we always made time for fun and, most importantly, good food. As an ASO officer, I planned one campus event per semester. Not only did I learn so much from the presenters I hired, but I also learned the ins and outs of event planning which translate well to teaching where planning is an important part of every day. My favorite events that I planned were Puppets in the Classroom and Body Percussion. Finally, my role as treasurer boosted my leadership skills in so many ways. I learned how to manage a budget, host events, work with a team of board members, and more. All of these skills and experiences built my confidence as I went through student teaching and go into my first teaching position. Thanks to ASO, I will be a more competent and resilient educator because of the leadership and planning skills I gained. I will forever be grateful for the community, friendships, and professional development that ArtsCore provided me throughout my time at UW Oshkosh.”

Allyssa was also the recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence, which recognizes a senior student who possesses strong academic and leadership qualities and demonstrates a commitment to the ideals of excellence and service to others. Here’s what Allyssa had to say about receiving the award:

“Receiving the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence is an accomplishment I will forever be proud of. Although, it would not have been possible without the people at ArtsCore who supported me throughout my journey at UW Oshkosh. I want to thank ArtsCore Director Donna Nelson for nominating me for the award and for being the best boss, mentor, and friend. I am so lucky to have had her support throughout college. I am also grateful for ArtsCore Faculty Collaborators Fawnda Norman and Thomas Hoh because they were amazing professors who provided opportunities to use arts integration in their courses and recommended me for the award. Additionally, ArtsCore provided me with opportunities for campus involvement, leadership, community service, and academic success – all key components of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence.”

We want to issue a special message of gratitude to Allyssa, who, in addition to her work with our student organization, also worked at ArtsCore as a student assistant. Her contributions to our organization have helped to carry us forward and maintain the high quality of services we seek to provide. We will miss Allyssa, but we cannot wait to see where her career takes her!