Our Fine Arts program emphasizes creativity and active learning.

It consists of Visual Arts, Music, Performing Arts, and Creative Dramatics. All are integrated throughout the K-5 curriculum. All except Creative Dramatics are taught, on a rotational basis, as part of the Middle School curriculum.

Visual Arts

All students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade have the opportunity to experience a wide variety of materials and styles during Visual Arts class. We live in a visual world and the Visual Arts classes help students to make connections to all areas of life as well as their other academic and specialty studies.

The kindergarten and first grade classes are introduced to a wide variety of art forms, methods and materials. The basics of line, form, shape and value are covered as well as learning to become comfortable drawing, painting, cutting with scissors, gluing and sculpting. Students are encouraged to create both two and three dimensional art using a plethora of materials including clay, watercolor, pastels, crayons, charcoal and colored pencils, recycled materials and markers.

Classes begin with the reading of an illustrated children's book which helps to stimulate each child's individual creativity. Student make "hungry caterpillars" inspired by Eric Carle and illustrated polar bears inspired by Jan Brett. A unit covering our world shows visual art through projects celebrating different cultures. Travels have taken students to India for the celebration of Diwali, China for the Chinese New Years and Scandinavia to meet "Sinterklass".

In the second and third grade classes, students are encouraged to develop their drawing, painting and sculpting skills while investigating the "history of art" and famous artists and art movements from around the world. Castles inspired by medieval times are built, canvas paintings are created inspired by Color Field art movement.

In the fourth and fifth grade, an exciting trip around the world investigates arts, crafts, and design from all seven continents. Examples include creating sculptures of the terra cotta warriors when studying China; making illustrated paper fans when studying Japan; decorating boxes with Islamic patterns from Algeria; and creating yarn designs in the style of "molas" from Panama. This year long unit corresponds with their investigations in social studies.

Middle School students rotate through the arts on trimester basis, At the Middle School level the focus of art classes is on building skills, experiencing different media, developing one's own style, and increasing appreciation. While art projects and activities are all incorporated into the other content areas, this course is designed to focus on the discipline of art and design and the differences between them. Canvas paintings are created inspired by Jackson Pollack, posters are designed using the "principles of two-dimensional design" and students paint listening to music from around the world.

Clubs celebrating the visual arts, crafts and design are offered for all grade levels in after-school programming.


Our music education program at Countryside exposes students to a wide variety of experiences including Orff and Kodaly based practices as well opportunities for performance and expressive movement. Students are exposed to a full array of Orff instrumentation and engage also in playing many different types of percussion and playing recorder. Other activities include singing, dancing, active listening, learning music history and theory, reading and creating music, and regularly building upon skills and concepts established in early grade levels. We also integrate technology in music class to help effectively reach every student in ways they are comfortable or knowledgeable.

Kindergarten/First Grade

  • Listen and respond to music through movement, playing, singing, and discussion
  • Recognize and read patterns of rhythmic notation
  • Learn simple music notation
  • Learn to sing in pitch using solfeggio and pitch matching games
  • Play ostinato patterns on Orff (xylophone-like) instruments using both hands simultaneously
  • Learn music terminology
  • Become familiar with instruments of the orchestra and how they are broken into families

Second Grade/Third Grade

  • Sing in canon, partner songs, and easy two part styles
  • Continue ear training and recognition of solfeggio intervals
  • Learn lines and spaces of treble clef
  • Recognize patterns of whole, half, dotted half, quarter notes and rests
  • Learn about composers and styles
  • Musical terminology
  • Movement, listening, and group expression
  • Continue further study of orchestral instruments and to which families they belong

Fourth Grade/Fifth Grade

  • Recorder study with an individually based playing system that helps every student succeed
  • Two and three-part singing
  • Understand and write melodic notation
  • Learn songs and dances from other cultures
  • Historical periods and styles and their composers
  • Orff and percussion ensembles utilizing pentatonic/diatonic patterns and syncopated rhythms
  • Add to musical vocabulary and terminology

Middle School

  • Expand upon rhythmic dexterity, ear training, and musical notation
  • More in depth study of musical styles and periods
  • Continue Orff ensemble explorations as well as world drumming and recycled instruments in ensembles
  • Explore jazz and improvisational styles
  • Music composition
  • Develop further vocabulary and terminology
  • Class musicals
  • Music history and composer research
  • 3 part singing and SAB singing and vocal production with attention to ensemble, diction, balance, etc.
  • Global Music and the study of different cultures through music
  • Technology based units using Garageband and Audacity with iPads and other interactive technologies

Performing Arts

Performing and dramatic experiences are incorporated into the curriculum at all levels through skits, plays, musicals, role playing, debates, oral presentations, and simulation activities. In addition to the performance opportunities in their classrooms, students have Creative Dramatics or Performing Arts classes with a performing arts specialist.

In the K/1 class students learn the basics of what it takes to put on a performance. They experience creating a set, making costumes, following a script, and performing roles. Emphasis is also placed on being a good member of the audience.

In the 2/3 class, students perform both scripted and unscripted skits and plays based on stories read in class. Drama is incorporated into Social Studies through simulations in which students sing and act in a U.S. geography musical one year and an U.S. history musical the next, role-play as pioneers for a Western Expansion simulation, and write and perform a simulated debate on "Who Really Discovered America?"

The 4/5 students perform "Antigone" when learning about Greek drama in language arts. During their mystery genre unit, students conduct a mock trial and present a "living museum" during their biography/autobiography unit. In small groups, students write and perform a "fractured fairytale." They prepare and perform in front of others for poetry recitations, book reports, extemporaneous speeches and "pair and share" language skills lessons.

At the middle school level, students work with our performing arts specialist and stage performance is stressed. Along with learning acting techniques, stage terminology, drama vocabulary, students also do ensemble work and physical and vocal exercises and warm-ups. Every class performs in a stage production. In sixth grade, it is in the form of shorter skits. The seventh grade performs a drama or comedy that integrates with the curriculum - such as performing the stage version of a book read in literature class. The eighth grade typically presents a musical.

Creative Dramatics

The K-5th grade performing arts curriculum is based on the discipline of creative dramatics.

Creative drama is an improvisational, non-exhibitional, process-centered form of drama in which participants are guided by a leader to imagine, enact and reflect upon human experiences. The creative drama process is dynamic. The leader guides the group to explore, develop, express and communicate ideas, concepts and feelings through dramatic enactment. In creative drama the group improvises action and dialogue appropriate to the content it is exploring, using the impulse of play and the elements of theatre to give form and meaning to the experience – adapted from Davis and Behm, "Terminology of Drama/Theatre With and For Children".

This training establishes a strong foundation for the more performance-based curriculum taught in the middle school years. Some of the units taught in creative drama are story dramatization, improvisation, mime, masks, puppets, poetry in motion, and storytelling. The students will sometimes perform for their other classmates in the double grade classrooms, thus becoming audience members as well.


Countryside School
4301 W. Kirby Ave. Champaign, IL 61822
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