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Creating an Art-Centered Community of Schools

A collective experience of Turnaround Arts in Des Moines

colored chalk shoesBenjamin Heinen is the visual arts curriculum coordinator and local program coordinator for Turnaround Arts: Des Moines. He is in his fifth year of providing arts education as a tool to create improved conditions for learning in some of the historically most challenged schools in Des Moines, Iowa.

Heinen didn’t enjoy his own school education or his subjects because he felt that he was severely limited in his abilities to express himself with the methods endorsed by the schools. He has since used that frustration to fuel reforms through his work with Turnaround Arts: Des Moines. The cohort has integrated curriculum to improve test scores, student, and staff satisfaction, and overall school effectiveness to prepare students for the rest of their lives.

Together with national and local partners, Turnaround Arts mission is to improve low-performing schools by not only integrating the arts back into a standard daily curriculum but using them to enhance a student’s grasp of all subjects and lessons through integrating the creative problem-solving and scientific method connection they foster. Turnaround Arts seeks to improve the social-emotional learning and development of K-8 students by bringing the joy and excitement of learning back to the classroom through the arts.

Northern Des Moines has four arts-centered elementary schools that feed into a single middle school. The feeder system created is collectively designated as an art cohort. Turnaround Arts: Des Moines was initiated and is sustained with additional institutional support from the Des Moines Public School System, Des Moines Performing Arts, and the local arts community.

This article was originally published in the Huffington Post by Dr. Rob Berger.

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