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SMArts (Saturday Morning Arts) Program Begins Third Year

SMArts ProgramSMArts Program Links ONU Students to Community
Morgan Baughman

Two years ago, Ohio Northern University professor Linda Lehman founded the Saturday Morning Arts (SMArts) program benefiting Ohio Northern students as well as local elementary students. The program was also designed to connect the University and the departments of art & design and education to the surrounding community.

Now, in its third year, the program continues to flourish. Beginning the fourth Saturday in January, 15 teacher candidates from Ohio Northern will implement lesson plans they have created. The 58 participating children will receive an opportunity to learn about art, an often neglected subject in today’s classrooms, while the college students will receive hands-on teaching experience.

To junior art education major Kelsey Schrock, from Perrysburg, Ohio, the advantages of this program are evident: “I think that SMArts is a great program both for local elementary school students, who enjoy art and want to get more experience outside the regular school week, as well as for students majoring in education.”

Senior art education major Stephanie Rader, from Mt. Cory, Ohio, echoes Kelsey: “It is an amazing opportunity for elementary and university students. They’re learning about art, which really boils down to critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. We’re learning the same things, but in the context of preparing lessons, like a teacher would. It’s practical experience for us, and it’s especially nice to be working with your peers while you learn. I’m acquiring many new strategies for room management, lesson planning and all sorts of things just by watching how they and I handle different situations.”

The future teachers receiving practice are of various experience levels. Stephanie, for example, has a long list of teaching history, while Kelsey has had much less. She says, “I don’t really know what to expect. However, I think I’ll be really impressed with the students’ participation and their understanding of different subjects we’ll talk about.”

Projects on this year’s SMArts syllabus correlate with other school subjects like science, history, and math, showing how art can be integrated into most every issue. “By their very nature, art and design disciplines are excellent educational tools to teach creative thinking,” says Prof. Brit Rowe, chair of the art & design department at Ohio Northern. “Students have to search for the right answers through hands-on assignments, not just text books. We have to encourage students to see the interconnections between subjects.”

There is no doubt that SMArts is a worthwhile endeavor. Linda says that after the past two years’ program, “we received a great deal of positive feedback with many parents asking us to repeat the program.” Response was so tremendous that 120 students applied for the fifty-eight slots offered by SMArts.

Participating in the program for another year, Stephanie emphasizes the value of the course, saying “What I enjoy most is being there with the kids. It’s so neat to be able to ask them questions to find out what they know, then to provide them with a bridge of new information that they can understand and apply. When it just clicks with them, and they understand, it’s gratifying.”