CANTON – When Holy Cross Academy (HCA), talks about the three R’s of education, they usually add one more letter. “P” for partnership.
Holy Cross Academy, the umbrella organization for Stark County’s Catholic schools, has spent several months developing and implementing programs through partnerships with the area’s most well-known and successful organizations.
These partnerships are designed to complement what is taking place in the classroom. Additionally, partnerships with the likes of ArtsinStark, are enhancing established programs as well as developing new program choices at each HCA campus.
“We’ve really been trying to add at least one art enhancement a year but we have probably averaged more like two or three,” said Jackie Zufall, HCA president.
In particular is HCA’s partnership with ArtsinStark, which established the SmArts Program to each of the HCA schools, Zufall said.
For seven weeks, a teaching artist from ArtsinStark partners with an HCA teacher to design an art project – either visual or performing – that corresponds with the curriculum being taught in the classroom.
For example, last year fifth-graders used art to express what they learned in science class. Some classes created artistic habitats, some painted canvas paintings of various ecosystems, some took photos of the local terrain, while others created life chain puzzles.
This year, each second-grade teacher picked a different subject. One school wrote a “butterfly play” which grades two and six performed for the whole school. One school designed a wall-length mosaic.
“The drama program at Holy Cross has given our daughter, Sophia, the opportunity to express herself in new, creative ways,” said Shannon Mathie, whose daughter attends Louisville St. Louis School.
“It has been a pleasure watching these new skills. Sophia has enjoyed working with Ms. Lisa Knight and Ms. Taylor Scott, the leaders of the Holy Cross Drama Club, who have tirelessly worked with our students providing guidance and encouragement,” Mathie said.
“The work they are doing is really impressive,” added Kristie Cramer, director of marketing and enrollment for Holy Cross Academy.
“This partnership is a great way to encourage students to apply what they are learning in the classroom and think critically about how to apply that information to other curriculum,” Cramer said, “making it truly experiential and cross-curriculum learning.”
“Connect with Your Community” is another program launched this academic year “to much success,” Cramer said. “So far we’ve had visits from the mayors of North Canton, Massillon, Canton, Alliance, the editor from the Independent newspaper, the police chief for North Canton, and Ohio State Representative Christina Hagan. “
These visitors toured the HCA schools, which has allowed for interaction with the staff and students. Representative Hagan led a class of fourth- and fifth-graders as they finished a government class allowing them to ask her questions about how government really functions.
“The editor from The Independent not only read to our kindergarten students, she spent substantial time with our middle school students at St. Barbara’s discussing with them the challenges and benefits of journalism with the changes in technology which fits their focus on STEM,” Cramer continued.
Mayor Thomas Bernabei of Canton sat with the fifth- grade students of Our Lady of Peace to talk to them about the importance of college and setting goals – “a conversation that will have a huge influence on their decisions.
“These visits have connected HCA students with local leaders in a way that will stay with them for a lifetime,” Cramer noted.
“The expansion of opportunities Holy Cross Academy has made available to the Catholic school children across Stark County has been astounding,” said Megan Brown, whose children attend Massillon St. Barbara School.
“Our children have participated in art competitions through ArtsinStark, including having their ‘masterpieces’ on public display at the Canton Art Museum,” Brown commented. “The band program has expanded county-wide, and the addition of the Drama Club has been a huge hit.
“Watching the collaboration of the students from all of our Stark County Catholic Schools at the Palace Theater was truly amazing. The expansion of the Arts programs is just one more reason Catholic Schools in Stark County are growing.”
Also part of the HCA arts offering with the support of ArtsinStark is the Genius Project, a new program this year that combines arts and engineering at the middle-school level.
Teams of four to six students are given a box of mystery materials and instructions. They have three months to construct whatever the mystery item is in the box. The one thing they do know is that it is some type of engineering project with a twist of art.
Last year, 35 teams from across the county participated in the pilot program. This year, 70 teams will compete, 10 of which will be from HCA schools.
“The arts represent everything that is good about learning,” said Zufall, a former art teacher. “It’s hands-on, minds-on, solving problems. It’s performance. All of those things are proven by research to be the best way for students to learn. The arts are so important across all subjects.”