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Promoting K-12 Learning Through the Arts

Promoting K-12 Learning Through the Arts


Future teacher and alumnus Carlos Sanchez recently used skills he learned in Cal State Fullerton’s teacher preparation program in a classroom of his own.

Sanchez and three other multiple-subject credential alumni were hired by Girls Inc. of Orange County to teach a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics in the organization’s Eureka! summer enrichment program. College of Education professors developed the arts-infused STEM curriculum for the Costa Mesa-based nonprofit that provides girl-focused programs.

“Teaching the curriculum was a great learning experience for me,” said Sanchez, who plans to become a math teacher for middle schools. “What I really loved about working with the girls was how smart and curious they were and how willing they were to try what I had planned for them each day. The program was inspirational for the young girls, as well as for me.”

The College of Education’s SchoolsFirst Center for Creativity and Critical Thinking in Schools recently expanded service to the community as a result of such successful collaborations. Funded by a SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union gift, as well as other private and community gifts and grants, the center promotes educational approaches focused on 21st-century competencies related to creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and decision making in K-12 schools.

This fall, the center is collaborating with other organizations serving diverse, high-need student populations, providing student teaching opportunities for teacher candidates, said Teresa Crawford, center director and professor of elementary and bilingual education.

“Through these new outreach efforts, we’re able to expand our work beyond the public-school setting and provide site-specific services that contribute to the learning opportunities for the students with whom these organizations work,” Crawford said.

One example is the center’s teaming up with the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim to infuse inquiry-based teaching methods into its STEM curriculum for the organization’s 5th- through 12th-grade students.

“With the focus on math and science instruction, the purpose of the professional development with the Tiger Woods teaching staff is to hone their instructional skills to move even more fully toward inquiry-based instruction,” Crawford explained. “The ultimate goal is to help students develop their questioning and investigative skills in service of critical thinking.”

Segerstrom Partnership

Another partnership is with Segerstrom Center for the Arts, which is helping integrate the arts into student-teaching classrooms. Nearly 100 teacher candidates who plan to become elementary school teachers will participate in “Arts: Avenues for Learning.”

“Arts: Avenues enhances the college’s efforts to prepare teachers who can help students of all ages thrive in the 21st century by fostering creativity, collaboration and innovation,” said Andrea Guillaume, professor of elementary and bilingual education who is co-directing the project. “Multiple-subject credential candidates will experience the richness of the world of the arts and work side by side with artists and arts educators from the Segerstrom Center in a unique opportunity that will truly provide them with new avenues for learning and teaching.”

When the credential candidates begin student teaching in November, they and their master teachers from area schools will attend a training workshop at the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa. “Together they will plan integrated instruction that enhances lessons in areas such as language arts, mathematics, science and the social studies with the arts,” said Guillaume, this year’s recipient of Cal State Fullerton’s Carol Barnes Excellence in Teaching Award.

Later this semester, the future teachers will have the opportunity to teach lessons they developed through the partnership at schools in the Fullerton, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified, Santa Ana Unified and Newport-Mesa Unified school districts to further enhance their teacher preparation and engage elementary-age students in learning through the arts.

Kristine Quinn, lecturer in elementary and bilingual education who teaches the visual and performing arts methods course, is co-director of the project. Lisa D. Kirtman, chair and professor of elementary and bilingual education, also is involved in this effort.

STEM-Arts Curriculum

For the Girls Inc. program, the middle-school curriculum focused on integrating the arts with lessons in environmental, architectural, forensic and computer science, said Cynthia S. Gautreau, assistant professor of elementary and bilingual education who facilitated the project. She co-authored the curriculum with fellow elementary and bilingual education faculty members Guillaume, Michelle Vander Veldt and Donna Bennett. Crawford, who coordinated the community collaboration, also was instrumental in the curriculum development.

“The goal of the curriculum was to educate and empower middle school girls about STEM careers, achievements by women in STEM careers and provide hands-on experiences that integrated the arts,” said Gautreau, adding that the organization plans to use the curriculum again next summer. “The curriculum includes inquiry-based lessons that engage the learner, give them skills to be independent learners and promote critical-thinking skills — all of which are needed to be successful in a diverse and global society.”

During the Eureka! program, students created websites, blogs, architectural models, journals, works of art, and forensic and environmental science projects.

In addition to Sanchez, other program teachers were Kathryn Rodriguez, Olivia Vasquez and Jessica Fredricks. All received high praise from Girls Inc. administration for their teaching skills and expertise, Gautreau said.

Sanchez, who earned a bachelor’s degree in child and adolescent development in 2010, has returned to her alma mater for a master’s degree in education with a concentration in secondary education. The Santa Ana resident credits the Girls Inc. experience for affirming his decision to become a middle school teacher.

“Having my own eighth-grade classes during the program was invaluable training for what it is like to teach this population of students. I’m grateful for the experience,” he said.

By: Debra Cano Ramos, 657-278-4027

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