This year, Rollins Place Elementary joined 16 other schools throughout the state that have earned designation as a Louisiana A+ school.

A program of the George Rodrigue Foundation, LAA+ Schools are research-based, whole-school networks with a mission of nurturing creativity in every learner through arts integration.

For first- and second-graders at Rollins Place, that means infusing some type of art, whether it be visual, music or performing, into every classroom and into traditional subjects such as math, science and history.

LAA+ team leader and first- and second-grade art teacher Jessica Cairo said many Rollins Place teachers have already taught arts-integrated lessons and their classroom walls are now adorned with student artwork or creations are on display outside the rooms.

“Teachers started with lessons they felt the students would be comfortable with,” Cairo said. “Some did self-portraits while others performed tableaus in connection with being good citizens in their classroom community.”

First-grade teacher Gwen Savario had five students act out a tableau on what it means to be a good citizen by having one student “slide” on the playground and act as if she were hurt. Through the tableau, which required the pupils to be silent and act out a range of emotions or become inanimate objects, they came to the injured student’s rescue.

First-graders in Laurie Condon’s class also participated in a unit based on community.

“They spent time thinking about how the choices they make as individuals impact others in their own community,” Condon said.

Art was integrated into that unit with students exploring lines, shapes and proportions. Also, they observed self-portraits by famous artists and collaborated and discussed the similarities and differences. Using their new knowledge, they created their own self-portraits. Students in Shannon Wall’s and Roselyn Major’s classrooms also created self-portraits.

Teacher Stacey Hodges had her pupils observe paintings by Vincent van Gogh as part of an art lesson.

“We worked with oil pastels to create still-life renditions of van Gogh’s “The Sunflowers” and focused on color value to show texture and dimension,” Hodges said. “The students then mass-produced the famous painting through an assembly line with each having a job to do.”

Hodges said the children then created individual paintings using van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” as inspiration.

“Afterward, they compared and contrasted to see which painting they liked best,” she said.

During the assembly line, the students chose to play music in the background and learned that faster-paced music increased speed at which the art was finished but the quality of the work suffered.

Cairo’s students studied artist Joseph Stella’s “The Brooklyn Bridge” before creating their own bridge artwork.

“They used different types of lines to ‘build’ their own bridge paintings. Students learned that designers, engineers and architects are all really artists who create and construct the world we live in,” Cairo said.

Students have reported that by using art in hands-on, real-world situations, they’re grasping regular subject matter better because instead of just reading and writing about it, they are creating and seeing the subject matter.

LAA+ Schools are trained on how to operate by using each of the eight A+ essentials every day: arts, curriculum, experiential learning, multiple intelligences (learning pathways), enriched assessment, collaboration, infrastructure and climate.

The LAA+ team at Rollins Place includes Principal Jennifer Marangos and teachers Melanie Alexander, Jody Barber, Cairo, Condon, Kristy Gilpin, Tiffany Jeansonne, Molly LeRoi and Robbie Yellott.

To learn more about LAA+ Schools, visit aplusla.org.