Called the PAInT Scholars program, the initiative connects five elementary education students – future teachers – with arts groups that work directly with children in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
In addition to helping the groups, the students – Brittany Pacifico, Camye Dudovitz, Kiley Flynn, Ashleigh Downey and Liz Fowler – will conduct research for projects connected to arts-integrated teaching, an instructional method that combines the arts with academics to help children understand and retain the academic material.
“A big part of the elementary education program at USFSM is using the arts to teach a content area, like using theater to teach a reading skill,” said Flynn, who was assigned to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall’s summer outreach program.
As part of that program, Flynn will visit schools to promote literacy while also introducing children to live theater. She’s waiting to hear about her exact responsibilities but anticipates assisting in such activities as set design, script reading and helping children act out scenes from a play or book.
“These kinds of programs are not only fun, but they help with learning because they give kids something fun to do instead of just doing a worksheet,” said Flynn. “It’s more memorable for them. This is an amazing opportunity.”
The scholars program arose from a partnership involving USFSM’s School of Education, the Florida Center for Partnerships for Arts Integrated Teaching, known at the PAInT Center, and local arts organizations. At USFSM, elementary education students are trained in arts-integration techniques and apply those methods during their internships. The scholar’s program will engage students in additional arts-based educational training.
To qualify as PAInT Scholars, the students are required to undergo 20 hours of volunteer work each semester for four semesters, keep a journal of their activities and produce a research project for the Student Showcase for Projects, Research and Innovation, held each spring on campus. Afterword, the students will receive medallions and certificates of completion stating they are USFSM PAInT Scholars.
“This is a wonderful collaboration with PAInT that enables our top teacher candidates to become connected to the local arts community, identify local needs and conduct research, blending their own research areas with the needs of the local community,” said Dr. Helene Robinson, who is mentoring the students in their projects.
Elizabeth “Liz” Fowler, a junior, said the scholar’s program provides an opportunity to delve deeper into arts-integrated instruction to learn how it benefits students who struggle with conventional teaching methods.
The Tulsa, Okla.-native studied graphic design and briefly worked in the field before moving to Florida to study education. She’s been assigned to the Venice Theatre’s summer children’s program, teaching theatrical arts and stagecraft. Fowler hopes her graphic design skills come in handy as she lends a hand at the theatre.
“The best thing about the program is working with the students and getting a chance to show them as much as I can,” she said. “I also like that the program gives me an opportunity to do research and to show how arts integration can play into academics and how to utilize it.”
Fowler will intern twice a week at the theatre. Like other students in the scholars program, she’s waiting to hear about her responsibilities.
“I could be asked to do just about anything. I expect it’s going to be a lot of fun, but also a lot of work,” she said. “Just working with the Venice Theatre will give me an opportunity to make some professional contacts. It’s also a chance to observe and try things that might work in the classroom.”
Dr. Denise Davis-Cotton, who directs the PAInT Center, which is based at USFSM, said the scholar’s program represents the perfect pairing of education and community volunteerism.
“It was important to revitalize the PAInT Scholars program and connect the students with arts organizations from Sarasota and Manatee counties,” Dr. Davis-Cotton said. “This program supports the students’ research agenda, arts-integration experience and career development as future teachers.”
Education student Camye Dudovitz agrees. She was assigned to two groups: Realize Bradenton, which promotes revitalization and economic growth in downtown Bradenton, and the Manatee Arts Education Council (MAEC), which encourages arts in education.
Dudovitz said she expects to work at two arts-related events this spring: ARTSLAM 2019, a street festival sponsored by Realize Bradenton, and Arts Alive: Manatee’s Celebration of the Arts, sponsored by the MAEC and featuring K-12 performances and student visual art.
Dudovitz said she’s thrilled to assist the two groups and eager to get started.
“It will give me an opportunity to connect with children while learning more about how arts integration can be useful in the classroom,” she said. “I also like the research aspect and understanding how arts integration can make a real difference in learning. I’m really looking forward to this.”