Friday, February 4, 2011

Maine Arts Commission visits Educare Central Maine

The Maine Arts Commission’s Arts in Education associate John Holdridge and Commission member Shannon Haines of Waterville Maine Street recently visited Educare Central Maine in Waterville. Educare Program Director Rhonda Kaiser led the tour of the new state of the art facility that includes spacious classrooms with access to outdoor play spaces, family service areas, staff development rooms, creative centers and yes, art. “Part of the Educare philosophy at the national level is that the arts are an important component of the curriculum,” said Kaiser. “The staff was able to give input to the artists who were hired to paint all of the murals and all staff are using the Picturing America curriculum that was developed by the National Endowment for the Humanities.”

To John Holdridge the emphasis on the arts was obvious. “There was something about the student art on the walls that seemed advanced for a school whose students are all age 5 and under. The paintings resonated with exploration of the medium and the possibilities inherent in art making. And the simple fact that the pipe cleaner sculptures on display were labeled as being three dimensional means that teachers are actively engaged in using language associated with the arts. So what they are doing is developing the minds of students who will enter kindergarten being arts literate and ready to create when they enter the art room in the K-3 school that is only a corridor away.”

Teacher Tiffany Lewis spoke eloquently about the educational benefits of using the Picturing America curriculum that includes 24X36 inch prints of master works as grounding points for developing literacy and art making skills. “It’s fabulous, it’s awesome really. There are so many things to observe in the prints that aren’t in Maine. We use expanding questions, art vocabulary, and art making activities that help students make connections and practice things like recall. We send activities home so families can participate and we even had a family night at the Colby College Museum of Art,” she said. “I would love to have training in any kind of art form.”

Easily done. After the tour John Holdridge led a twenty minute poetry and performance class for Miss Tiffany’s students. Inspired by a print of a stained glass work by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the students were led through a short process of gathering words, collectively writing a poem and performing the poem with movement and sound effects. The poetry and performance served as yet another layer of understanding of the print the students had been studying and also for Miss Tiffany’s work as a teacher. “I never would have thought to do poetry, but it’s their words and it’s so simple. I love that they made a poem today. It’s the highlight of my day I think.”

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