Early Encounters with the Arts

Through a partnership between the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County and the Arts and Cultural Alliance, children within Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) classrooms experienced a wide range of authentic artistic encounters with teams of teaching artists in Early Encounters with the Arts in October 2013.

VPK is a state-funded preschool for all four-year-olds. It began as a result of a Florida constitutional amendment and serves 2,000 children in Sarasota County, about 85% of all four-year-old children. The Early Learning Coalition (ELC) provides high-quality early education resources and family support to ensure that children are ready to enter school with the skills needed to succeed. They are a local legislatively-designated entity to manage several programs like VPK in the overall local Sarasota system of early education and care. The ELC serves parents, ensures state mandates are met and that childcare sites provide high quality care. The Coalition assists more than 4,000 children and their families and 200 childcare provider sites and teachers each year.

In the program experiences, teachers increased their skills in integrating music, visual art, dance, social studies, math and storytelling with language arts. Imagine four-year-old children, usually somewhat rambunctious, sitting quietly in awe of the music played by teaching artist Joy Yelin, or using their bodies to create a dramatic story with storyteller Mary J. Kelly.

The children also created clay figures related to the story of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak with teaching artist Judy Levine. Teaching Artist Lori George helped children create large sweeping paintings on huge canvases that illustrated a journey to Costa Rica. Deb Lombard allowed children to dance their way through the day with creative movement that fully engaged all their senses. Finally, Karen Johns created a new way to learn math by using musical instruments and scarves to learn rhythms.

These were wonderful opportunities for the children and the teaching artists enjoyed the experience as well. A teacher commented that she “learned many new ideas to use in her classroom” through the Early Encounters with the Arts project.

The focus was to not only expose children to new artistic experiences, but to also infuse the arts into the preschool classroom as an effective technique for improving child learning outcomes.

We hope to repeat this in the spring. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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Blog contributed by:  Janet Kahn, Executive Director,  Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County; and Susan O’Carroll, Early Childhood Specialist. For more information contact Susan at 941-954-4830, x225 or by email.