CRESTVIEW — Northwood Elementary School, with the Okaloosa County School Board's approval, soon will become Northwood Arts and Science Academy.


CRESTVIEW — Northwood Elementary School, with the Okaloosa County School Board's approval, soon will become Northwood Arts and Science Academy.



The academy, more than two years in the making, reflects the school district's focus on S.T.E.A.M. — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. The former curriculum, S.T.E.M., added the arts component following evidence that arts education spurs success in the other areas, Northwood assistant principal Barry Blackburn said.



"First, we're looking at an arts integration programming — putting that art into the curriculum," he said. "When they do that, it typically raises test scores. That's what we're trying to look at first and build on that: build arts, drama, dance and music curricula, as well as advanced sciences."



Northwood Arts and Science Academy will accept students from other north county schools, school superintendent Mary Beth Jackson said, indicating that at least 80 spots could be available for students from outside Northwood's zone, including Baker and Laurel Hill School students.



Fostering a love of arts



When the former Richbourg Middle School moved out of the complex it shared with Northwood in 2008 and became Shoal River Middle School, it left behind refurbished visual and performing arts studios and science labs. Then teacher Glen Neese brought violins and guitars with him when he began a music program at Northwood.



Until his retirement last June, Neese's classes grew to include vocal and instrumental music and performance art basics. His classes annually presented school programs for holidays including Christmas, Martin Luther King Day and Memorial Day.



Crestview native Penni Byrd continued the program.



Her second-grade students demonstrated instrumental and vocal skills as they performed "Rain," a piece incorporating African drums, rain sticks, xylophones and other percussion instruments, at the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce’s March breakfast.



Students provided musical and vocal accompaniment to Byrd's reading of the Lisa Wheeler children’s book, “Ugly Pie.”



"We have a lot of parents in Okaloosa County who don't realize the impact that having an arts program makes, keeping their kids engaged at school," Blackburn said. "We have great music programs in our (middle and high) schools, and I think we could have even better ones if we could just catch them at a young age.



“That's why it's important to get the arts going at a young age and foster that love."



Want to help?



Northwood Arts and Science Academy’s next organizational meeting is 6 p.m. April 11 in the Northwood Elementary School art room. Contact Principal Jacqueline Craig for more information, 689-7252.




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Contact News Bulletin Arts & Entertainment Editor Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or brianh@crestviewbulletin.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.



VIDEO: See "Related Media" at top left of this article.