Posted in GAP News, Mississippi Art News

ARTSblog | Quickly Making a Difference in Early Childhood Arts Education

As many of you know, we have been developing partnerships with our local Head Start over the past three school years through our relationship with Western Line School District. We have been paying close attention to the national discussion surrounding how the arts can be used in early childhood education and are excited that the dialogue is heating up. With all this in mind, we just had to share a recent posting on ArtsBlog, the blogging side of Americans for the Arts, that hits on some major themes that we have found in our work here as well. Hope you enjoy!

Quickly Making a Difference in Early Childhood Arts Education

by Ron Jones

There seems to be an unstated assumption that any change in how the arts are utilized in early childhood education requires that the focus be on influencing and shaping the pedagogy of the teachers who currently work directly with this age group. That seems like a practical strategy, but we all know how challenging it is to initiate change.

I would submit that there is another avenue, a quicker and more effective path for accomplishing our goals with early childhood.

This avenue is at least as powerful as any other strategy advocated and, at its best, may be the most efficient way to implement beneficial change—positioning the arts as central to and essential for early childhood education.

I would argue that it is easier and faster to shape the philosophy and ensure a new approach to pedagogy when the focus is education majors within our colleges and universities.

The resistance to change evidenced in many experienced educators, be they teachers or principals, makes it difficult for me to believe that we can witness significant influence over what happens; rather, or at least at the same time, we must marshal the energy, enthusiasm, and commitment of soon-to-be teachers. Harnessing that energy will yield positive results in just a few short years. We must create a transition that permeates every classroom, that impacts every student, and that is advanced by every educator.

Students preparing to teach are receptive and eager to receive both philosophical as well as practical mentoring. They have not adopted behaviors and perspectives that are resistant to challenge and change.

Education majors are eager, receptive, enthusiastic, idealistic, and anxious to make their mark, make a difference, and give uncompromisingly to their future students. Being totally pragmatic, we must act on and harness that receptivity and energy.

At first blush this might not seem to be anything more than the obvious but it is my observation that the field of education seldom recognizes the speed with which change can be implemented if we prepare teachers who one year later are implementing what they have learned.

Currently the “survival” rate for teachers is so short that any strategy other than focusing on pre-professional will, in all probability, be short lived and, more disappointingly, be initiated effectively by only a few.

For us to succeed we must transform and transformation is always easier if resistance is not where the transformation begins.

Helping pre-professional students to embrace the values of arts education and then supplying them with guidance and mentoring and tools will serve our goals well, moving arts education along more rapidly and making its value in education more apparent.

via ARTSblog » Blog Archive » Quickly Making a Difference in Early Childhood Arts Education.

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The mission of the Greenville Arts Council is to promote the rich cultural heritage of the region and stimulate and encourage cultural activities, arts appreciation, arts education, and the creative works of artists. Some of the responsibilities that help define the Greenville Arts Council as the primary promoter of the arts in our area include offering art classes to children and adults, organizing community events, presenting an ongoing series of free exhibits featuring visual artists from the area and the state, and coordinating educational programs which teach arts-integration in local schools. The Greenville Arts Partnership between the Greenville Arts Council, the Greenville Public School District and our three community arts partners, Delta Center Stage, Delta Symphony Association and the Delta Children’s Museum, is focused on full arts integration in the GPSD elementary schools. Plentiful research documents the value of the teaching in and through the arts to help students understand core academic concepts on a deep level. The partnership was the first in the state of Mississippi accepted into the Kennedy Center Partners in Education Program in 2003, joining over 100 other partnerships between school districts and arts organizations across the country. The partnership provides professional development for teachers, arts experiences for students and resource and referral on arts integration issues. Professional development has been provided in two ways, through workshops with Teaching Artists from the Kennedy Touring Roster and grade-level and/or discipline-specific professional development with our local staff. We present a series of model demonstration lessons to teachers in grades K to 6, demonstrating connections between Partnership free arts programming and required state frameworks. The partner arts groups present a series of live performances allowing each elementary child in the GPSD to attend at least once each year. The groups work with the Arts Council staff to develop accompanying curriculum-based educational material for distribution to teachers prior to each performance. Over the years, we have succeeded in providing basic arts integration training district-wide as well as in-depth professional development to allow groups of teachers to increase their level of mastery.