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SMArts Program

Saturday mornings at Ohio Northern University can be a special time for area youths. With no classes scheduled, ONU’s campus and facilities are available to programs that give local children fun and exciting educational opportunities.

One such program, the Saturday Morning Art Enrichment program (SMArts), teaches area elementary and middle school students about art through the many exhibits and art installations on campus. Students then apply what they’ve learned in the studio through art projects that develop creativity and confidence under the mentorship of ONU education majors.

SMArts students sketch a Remington statue at ONU.

Founded in 2006 by Linda Lehman, visiting instructor of education at ONU, the SMArts program relies on 16 ONU students to educate and mentor the more than 71 area students who came to the Wilson Art Center this fall. Third through eighth grade students from the Ada, Bath, Bluffton, Hardin Northern and Perry school districts participated in the program this fall.

At a recent session, students began the day viewing and critiquing the Remington sculptures located near Dial-Roberson Stadium. With the help of the ONU teacher candidates, students took their knowledge and perceptions back to the studio where they applied them to a wide variety of art media. Projects ranged from Andy Warholesque compositions, wireframe and clay sculpture, abstract art and printmaking.

While the children got to take home their projects, the ONU students took away an experience that will serve them well in their future careers.  

"SMArts offers our students a unique opportunity to actually write curriculum, implement the lessons and then reflect on the success of the lessons. They also engage the children using  content-specific strategies they are learning in their methods classes and learn to differentiate instruction for a wide variety of students for extended periods of time," says Lehman.

During the weeks leading up to the program, the teacher candidates learned about the components of a comprehensive visual arts program in accordance with the Ohio Academic Content Standards. Teacher candidates prepared lessons that focused on the process of creating and critiquing art, as well as how art reflects on the cultural and social context that it was created in. Lesson plans where created to engage students in a higher level of critical and artistic thinking.

Following each Saturday morning session, ONU teacher candidates returned to the classroom with Debra Gallagher, assistant professor of education, and Lehman to reflect, critique and learn from, the unique, hands-on teaching experience.

The SMArts program is free to area children who wish to attend thanks to generous support from the Ada Kiwanis club and the ONU Department of Education.