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Art and imagination bridges language barriers at Anoka Middle School for the Arts

students holding their creations (11/22/2023) At Anoka Middle School for the Arts (AMSA), a grant from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis has students in the English Language (EL) program deeply engaged in activities that go beyond what their first language is.

The visitors from the Walker Art Center were at the middle school Nov. 20-21 to talk about different kinds of art and encourage students to be creative and express themselves with a project using modeling clay. View photos from the visit.

AMSA Curriculum Integration Coordinator Jolanda Dranchak said the EL program was chosen for the grant because “Art is a bridge that connects cultures and offers a unique avenue for vocabulary acquisition and practical engagement.”

The grant: The purpose of the grant from the Walker Art Center is to “increase off-site programming focusing on students and schools from underserved and underfunded backgrounds." 

Guests from the Walker Art Center spent a full day at the Fred Moore Campus (seventh and eighth grade) on Monday and then spent the day at the Washington Campus (sixth grade) on Tuesday. 

The big picture: The primary goal of the English Learners (EL) program is to help students use U.S. academic English, understand the culture of U.S. schools, and be successful learners. In the program, students will understand:

  • English is used to communicate for a variety of purposes in social, cultural and academic settings.
  • English language strategies support academic achievement in content areas.
  • English language mastery requires proficiency in listening, speaking, reading and writing.

There are EL teachers at each school in the district with more than 35 positions at the secondary level. At AMSA there are around 90 students in the program, 60 at Fred Moore and another 30 at Washington, and at the secondary level in the district, nearly 1,300 students are in the program. At Fred Moore, Micolette Paul, who has been teaching EL in the district for 18 years, said the Walker Art Center experience helps connect the EL students with the rest of the school population.

“One of the goals I have for my students each year is for them to see themselves in the culture of AMSA and how much they contribute to the culture as well. It’s a unique opportunity for our EL students to participate in this and allows them to create something about who they are.”