Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Program touts benefits of hands-on learning

Sun Valley Center for the Arts coordinates after-school projects

Express Staff Writer

Woodside Elementary School fifth-grader Dakota Hutton works on a watercolor painting during an after-school art program. Photo by David N. Seelig

An after-school art program sponsored by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts is giving participating children the opportunity to exercise new disciplines.

Britt Udesen, the Sun Valley Center for the Arts' director of education and humanities, said the program is teaching kids reflection and listening skills.

The Center is giving seven after-school classes in five schools. The classes are free and run for six weeks in the fall and six weeks in the spring.

"Students work from objects, meaning they look at a piece of art, talk about it, make art about it," Udesen said.

Neuroscientist Adele Diamond was recently featured on the NPR program "Speaking of Faith." He addressed the developmental benefits of doing things like the art exercises promoted by The Center's after-school program.

"Her work is scientifically illustrating the educational power of things like play, sports, music, memorization and reflection," NPR posted on its website. "What nourishes the human spirit, the whole person, it turns out, also hones our minds."

"I think you learn things by doing," Diamond said in her interview.

In the interview, she was asked who learns more while driving, the driver or the passenger? She said the driver does because he or she is doing things and the passenger is passively sitting.

"Somehow when we make schools, we forget about that and we have the children passively sitting ... and they're not going to learn as well just listening," she said.

Udesen said Diamond "is eloquent at saying why art makes you smarter."

Udesen said the curriculum is built to support Idaho content standards in the arts and humanities and is always linked to whatever exhibition is in The Center's gallery.

"Last fall, kids were working on projects about mining—this fall it's about water," she said.

One art pupil, Skylar Goepfert-MacGuire, who walks each week with 11 other children from the Hailey Elementary School to a class at the nearby Hailey Cultural Center, recently made a sculpture of rocks shooting from a volcano into the ocean where a fish is swimming.

What is his favorite part of the exercise learning about how lava and rocks influence life in the ocean?

"Making things," Goepfert-MacGuire said, excited to show off his creation.

Classes are first-come, first-served and limited to 12 students so that each student gets plenty of individual attention, Udesen said. The teachers this year are Carolyn Poole, Alli Connolly and Angela Tsai.

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