As the sound of guitar strums and vintage tunes invade the hallways of Springfield High School, you may catch yourself humming along to the sweet sounds of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

As the sound of guitar strums and vintage tunes invade the hallways of Springfield High School, you may catch yourself humming along to the sweet sounds of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

"We've learned how to play a few Beatles songs, like 'Eleanor Rigby,' and then we also learned 'Let it Be,'" sophomore Kasidi Jacobs said about the new guitar lab offered at Springfield.

The class, offered for the first time this year, was a success from the start with more than 60 students originally signed up.

"This is just amazing; it's different" said senior Kevin Myers. "We've learned all of the basic notes and chords and everything, like, we can play songs now."

As an elective, the guitar lab adds to the variety of classes students are able to take at Springfield. Guitars are provided free of charge for the students each semester.

To ensure that students get the most of each lesson, director Ernest Cole has worked to introduce them to familiar songs.

"We've done music from the 'Lion King' like 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight,' and we just did 'American Pie,' " Cole said. "Once we get far enough, we'll be able to teach them how to play 'Hotel California' by the Eagles and stuff like that."

The class was the direct result of an effort to boost the creative curriculum at Springfield High School. Principal Cynthia Frola supported the idea of adding another artistic elective, instead of cutting funds on such electives. Many school districts facing financial instability have been forced to cut back on arts classes.

No matter what the subject area, there always is room for creativity.

"I think there is no soul in a classroom without creativity," English teacher Peggy Gannon said. "And, I think, part of a teacher's job is to add depth to the life of his or her students."

Gannon, who has worked at Springfield for 15 years, teaches many of the school's creative classes including creative writing and theater. She also incorporates creativity into her advanced and advanced-placement classes by having students create visual journals to go along with class readings.

"A classroom without creativity, well, it's all rote learning, you're spitting (the material) back out. Employers don't want that. They could hire a robot," Gannon said. "They want someone to come in and be innovative. They want someone who's thinking outside the box and good at it, and working with groups. Teamwork is a really big thing in business right now," Gannon said.


To encourage creative freedom within a school, ArtsinStark, a nonprofit organization, funds art integration projects for teachers throughout Stark County.

"(We) help teachers create ways to bring the arts into their math, science and language arts classrooms, not as a fun 'fluff' activity at the end of a lesson, but instead as a vehicle for actually teaching the content" ArtsinStark Education Coordinator Jennifer Hickman said. "Will you remember how an electrical circuit works if you are merely told about it? What if you actually create one that takes the form of a wire sculpture, following it up by writing an artist's statement explaining how and why the circuit works and what drove the artistic and sculptural choices that were made?"

Hickman works closely with teachers to help them incorporate project-based learning into their classrooms.

Aside from the mini grants ArtsinStark provides to schools, Hickman currently is working with 12 out of the 17 public school systems in Stark County that are called SmArts Partnerships. These schools are provided with large-scale grants and budgets ranging from $1,600 to $5,000.

"At a time when school districts are continually facing budget restraints and cutbacks in 'non-essential' programming, to have this sort of financial support speaks volumes as to districts' needs and priorities,' " Hickman said.

To put this idea to the test, Robb Hankins, president and chief executive officer of ArtsinStark, shared a study that was conducted at Jackson High School. By splitting up the students in two group, Arts in Stark was able to measure which group had the higher test scores.

"(We used) a test group and a control group to see the overall difference on these students' state reading tests," Hankins said. "The students who got the arts did better statistically than the control group who didn't get the arts."

To keep the arts alive in schools, Arts in Stark continues to work closely with teachers, as many school districts like Springfield continue to do in order to incorporate a diverse curriculum in and out of the classroom.