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Art Education Program Links ONU Students to Community

October—In 2006, Ohio Northern University art education 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 fifth year, the program continues to flourish. Beginning this Saturday, about 16 teacher candidates from Ohio Northern will implement lesson plans they have created.

A record number 80 children from Ada, Bath, Bluffton, Hardin Northern and Perry schools will participate in the weekend program. They also 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.

This year Project SMArts offers a variety of media and activities including sculpture, creating handmade paper, photography, drawing and painting. Art appreciation and art history experiences are made possible through the students’ access to the university’s art collection. The outdoor bronze sculptures by the artists Remington, Fraser and Russell are used to inspire student work centering on the themes of balance and movement.

A senior education major explains that, "This 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.”

Assignments for this year’s SMArts correlate with other school subjects like science, history, and math, showing how art can be integrated into most every classroom. “By their very nature, art and design disciplines are excellent educational tools to teach creative thinking,” says Prof. Linda Lehman. “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 several years, “we received a great deal of positive feedback with many parents asking us to repeat the program.”

The art enrichment program is coordinated by Ohio Northern’s art education instructor Linda Lehman and Dr. Debra Gallagher, who also will be involved in teaching and assisting the students. The program is sponsored in part by the Ada Kiwanis Club and supported by Ohio Northern and the departments of education and art and design.

The 2010–11 year marks the 50th anniversary of the Bachelor of Arts degree in art at Ohio Northern University. Growing from a single-discipline school, the department offers both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with majors in advertising design, art education, graphic design and studio arts with concentrations in two-dimensions, three-dimensions and art therapy. The department of A&D holds memberships in national organizations such as the National Art Education Association, College Art Association, Foundations in Art: Theory and Education and the National Council on Education of Ceramic Arts. The department is also recognized in the second and third editions of “Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers” as one of the best creative programs nationwide. For additional information about the department of art & design or the University’s 2010-11 Arts Exhibition Season, contact the department at 419.772.2160.