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VAE and Head Start Wrap up 2017 Arts Partnership

MANCHESTER — For many students, art can be a valuable source of fun and learning which can be incorporated into every subject. This integration is the goal of the collaborative arts program between the Vermont Arts Exchange (VAE) and Bennington County Head Start, which wrapped up on Monday.

“This is a generous grant from the Vermont Arts Council, with matching funds from Head Start, to bring arts integration into Head Start classrooms,” said Heather Bullock, the VAE Head Start coordinator. “This is our third year of doing this, and what we do is we have a qualified artist who comes in and teaches the teachers themselves how to integrate art into all areas of the curriculum.”

Through the Vermont Arts Council grant, the VAE is able to bring artist and teacher Betsy Kane to Head Start classrooms for 10 weeks to work with teachers, and the approximately 45 students in their classrooms.

“What Betsy brings to this is teaching them that art is limitless,” said Bullock. “These are the foundations for our future engineers, scientists, poets, and everything.”

“It’s been really wonderful working with the teachers, because everyone has their own different styles,” said Kane. “Working with different classrooms and different groups of kids, I found it really inspirational because I did projects that I wouldn’t have created on my own.”

The program, operating in three Bennington Head Start classrooms this year, is structured in a way that gradually allows the teachers to take the helm of their arts curriculum’s.

“It’s really great, because in the last three weeks that she comes it’s our own, we plan it ourselves,” said Head Start’s lead teacher Bonnie McGowan. “The first three weeks she plans, in the mid weeks her and I plan together and projects overlap. During those last three weeks, with her help, I was able to come up with different ideas for what to do.”

The Vermont Arts Exchange is able to bring arts education to classrooms at both the Bennington and Rutland branches of Head Start, which is a program of the United Counseling Service. Head Start welcomes children ages three to five whose families meet federal income guidelines.

“Head start is often under served when it comes to having access to the arts, compared to private preschools,” said Bullock. “We wanted to make sure that all students were included and receiving arts education, as well as incorporation into other subjects that are part of the Vermont Learning Standards.”

This arts initiative has been popular with both students and teachers over the last three years.

“The students love it, they’re always excited when Betsy comes in,” said McGowan. “It’s a great learning experience for them, but they’re not really aware that they’re learning because they’re having so much fun with her.”

For Kane as well, the partnership provides an enjoyable and educational classroom experience.

“At this age kids are so interested and engaged anyways it’s fun, and easy, and magical,” said Kane. “We talk a lot about the magic of drawing, and being able to share your thoughts and feelings and make other people see what you see. I just love it because there’s so much joy in it, and they’re so excited.”

This excitement for education can provide a gateway to learning for students that struggle with more traditional classroom models.

“We’re really trying to teach teachers how to incorporate art into all aspects of curriculum,” said Bullock. “When students have art in their lives, they’re not only far more enriched but they learn better and they can take on subjects that maybe they struggled with in the past when art is involved.”

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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