Filling a School With the Arts: Sage Hills Elementary

Students at Sage Hills Elementary in Saratoga Springs, Utah, are being immersed in the arts this year as they learn other subject matter. The teachers at the school are integrating the arts into the curriculum in a variety of ways, with a little help from some arts experts!

Principal John Emett said that some very creative things are going on at the school with arts integration. “The BYU Partnership has helped us develop so well!” he said. Students and teachers are all benefitting from this collaboration.

For the past three years, the school benefitted from the expertise of a Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program (BTSALP) drama teacher, Melanie Skankey. Skankey is now a fifth grade teacher at the school. The influence of that expertise is still being felt.

Last month, the entire student body participated in a Specialty Celebration, which is something that the school began doing two years ago.

“We like to take a day at the end of rotations and celebrate our progress,” said Dana Moore, physical education teacher. This year, the students traveled the globe and started in the Pacific Islands and Australia.

While “visiting” these areas of the world, the students participated in a variety of arts-based activities. These included a Haka dance-off, Tinikling, creating strings of rhythm with chains of beats and a glow-in-the-dark dance party. The Haka is a ceremonial dance in Māori culture. Tinikling is a traditional Philippine folk dance.

This year, visual arts and literacy are being integrated in some of the classes. Scott Flox, artist-in-residence from the BYU Arts Partnership, has been collaborating with fifth grade teachers Teressa Paepke and Melanie Skankey to integrate the arts into their teaching.

According to Paepke, Flox has been helping the students with novel studies, mind-mapping and drawing. Recently, he has been studying “The BFG” by Roald Dahl with the kids. He has also taken them through the steps of drawing pumpkins and creating artworks, modeling the importance of basic drawing skills.

Since Flox has been working with the teachers, their instruction has changed in many ways, according to Paepke. “As teachers, we have started writing our own deep integrated lessons based on National Geographic articles, poems, speeches and other articles,” she said.

The teachers are not the only ones who are benefitting from this collaboration. “Students are learning in a new way that is more engaging to them and means more. The content is relevant to them and they make connections to it. They also remember it more and are able to recall things more often and quicker,” Paepke said.

First-graders at Sage Hills are dancing while learning. According to Emett, collaboration amongst teacher Summer Wanlass and a dance scholar, Emily Rowe, from Brigham Young University is bringing the art of dance to the students. Wanlass is participating in the Arts Bridge program. The program provides an opportunity for classroom teachers and students to have an in-depth experience in an art form.

Music Scholar Kiersten Hopkins, from Brigham Young University, is working with Melanie Skankey’s class to help them integrate music into the curriculum. The arts are flowing through the halls and classrooms of Sage Hills Elementary!

Laura Giles is a lover of all things art, a first grade teacher in Alpine School District, a writer for The Daily Herald newspaper, an Arts Leadership Academy graduate and has earned the Arts Integration Endorsement from Brigham Young University. She can be reached at

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