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Saturday Morning Arts (SMArts) Program Provides Outreach for Art Education Students at Ohio Northern

SMArts ProgramIn a 2006 study by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, art education helped children become better students in other areas including critical thinking and literacy skills.

And many other researchers have found that the study of the visual arts can improve students’ performance. At Ohio Northern University, the Saturday Morning Arts (SMArts) Program was founded based on similar connections.

Ohio Northern’s art education professor Linda Lehman founded the SMArts program three years ago to benefit 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.

“There is a strong need in our community to offer art education classes,” explains Prof. Lehman. “With tight budgets, many public schools cut art programs.”

Now, in its fourth year, the SMArts program continues to flourish. Beginning the fourth Saturday in January, 15 teacher candidates from Ohio Northern will implement lesson plans they have created. The 64 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 senior art education major Julie Brewer from Bradford, 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 Kelsey Schrock from Perrysburg, Ohio echoes Julie’s sentiments. “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,” explains Julie. “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. Julie, 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 any 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 three 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 62 slots offered by SMArts.

Participating in the program for another year, Kelsey emphasizes the value of the program, 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.”

The art education major is an intensive full-time teacher preparation program that enables students to earn a PreK-12 licensure as a teacher. ONU's program is designed to prepare its candidates to be not only accomplished art educators, but also articulate advocates for the role of art in PreK-12 education. The curriculum involves partnerships with public schools and is designed so that students come to understand educational theory through personal experience in authentic teaching situations. For instance, students at Ohio Northern plan and teach a group of middle school students participating in the Saturday Morning Arts (SMArts) program. Also, ONU teacher candidates complete 12 weeks of student teaching experiences in an elementary public school and in a secondary public school.

Ohio Northern offers both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with majors in advertising design, art education, graphic design and studio arts. 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 recognized in the second edition 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 2009-10 Arts Exhibition Season, contact the department at 419.772.2160.

See other photos from last year’s sessions.
image: An ONU teacher candidate works with a local art teacher and a student on a project.