- Associated Press - Sunday, May 18, 2014

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) - Sara Davis, an early childhood education professor at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, has a passion for integrating arts into lessons in reading and math that she would like to share with teachers who are interested in the concept.

Davis said she could help a teacher brainstorm ideas for using art to accomplish students’ learning goals.

A new program the university’s Education Renewal Zone office plans to start in spring 2015 will provide a structured format for helping university faculty members work closely with teachers in Fort Smith-area elementary, middle, junior high and high schools, Jennifer Jennings Davis, director of the office, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1iMeOrP).

Jennings Davis introduced the “Adopt-A-Classroom” program Wednesday to an advisory board for the Education Renewal Zone office that will pair university faculty members with area teachers. The program is modeled after a similar 2-year-old program created by Elizabeth Smith, director of the Education Renewal Zone office at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Jennings Davis sometimes gets requests from teachers who want to take students to the UAFS campus or who want a faculty member to visit their classes. University professors also sometimes want to reach out to area schools, but they aren’t sure how.

Jennings Davis knew Smith and thought Adopt-A-Classroom would provide an avenue for fulfilling those requests.

“It lets it go a little more in depth,” Jennings Davis said. “It’s really focused on building relationships.”

The Adopt-A-Classroom concept reminded Davis of a former university student who had his third-grade class visit her Creative Arts in Early Childhood class on campus. The third-grade teacher’s pupils had just finished reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Davis had been teaching her education students a strategy for using drama to teach literature.

The visit provided an opportunity for her teachers-in-training to see how elementary children responded to the strategy they were learning, Davis said.

When the third-graders visited her classroom, they worked with university students to portray a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in what’s known as a “tableau.” They worked in small groups to brainstorm ideas and then each group staged a scene and froze as if they were caught in a photograph.

Davis‘ students were skeptical and worried the third-graders would not understand the concept, but instead they saw the children needed some explanation but were able to create scenes from the book, she said.

“The children were so engaged, and they were so excited,” she said.

___

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com