SARASOTA -- The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee created a new program this year designed to bring arts and teaching together.
The Partnerships for Arts Integrated Teaching has a simple mission -- bring a new way of teaching teachers through fine arts.
The two-part program is designed for educators to learn how to use fine arts in classrooms.
The program is expanding in the coming school year.
Terry Osbourne, dean of the college of education, said the program was inspired by the "unique art riches and resources" available in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
The program, launched in January after two-and-a-half years in the making, has picked up momentum.
The Manatee Community Foundation awarded a $42,000 grant for "collaboration, arts integration and the common core," which pairs teachers and student-teaching interns with local artists.
"We will be taking teachers and student teachers and have them work with a visiting artist to create lessons built around the common core," Osborne said. "It is a step forward with leadership and vision."
This part of the PAINT program will start in spring 2014.
"We will need to measure outcomes of efforts. It is not just about feel-good art, but it also needs to lead to success," Osborne said.
Osborne said the university will work with the charter school Manatee School for the Arts for advice on arts integration.
"For 15 years, we've been doing arts-infused education," said Bill Jones, principal of Manatee Schools for the Arts. "USF wants to look at what we are doing, share information, talk with our faculty and visit classes."
Jones said he anticipates a valuable partnership.
"We are not just teaching the arts. We are using art to teach subject matter," Jones said. "We need people who know the content who can use art as a vehicle to teach it."
University of South Florida educators will also meet with school district staff members.
Education students at the University of South Florida will visit and work with various art institutions, such as the Sarasota Opera and the Sarasota Ballet, for coursework. Visiting artists have also been assisting teachers at Title I schools.
Sarasota Opera Executive Director Richard Russell said teachers need to encourage the arts and imaginative learning.
Russell said one of the important challenges of an arts organization is to educate and be involved.
"The idea is to help teachers understand the arts so they will have tools to incorporate into their curriculum," Russell said. "It is crucial for the arts to be involved in the education of students. If the arts are to survive, they have to be a part of education."
Russell said teachers with no background in the arts can become inspired to incorporate elements such as opera into history and language arts.
"We are anxious to be involved in any way we can. PAINT is a perfect laboratory for involving emerging teachers in the production of the arts," Russell said.
Robin Thompson, executive director of teaching and learning for the Manatee County School District, will meet with district learning specialists Beth Severson, Maidie Meckley and Michelle Compton and University of South Florida administration to develop the program.
"We have not defined the details yet," Thompson said. "It will be planned so that artists will meet with teachers and their interns either during planning blocks or after hours."
Thompson said teachers will not be required to participate in the program, but those who do will be compensated by the university through a Manatee Community Foundation grant sufficient to fully fund the program, Thompson said.
Each year, the university will bring in artists and consultants to work with USF education department faculty. Faculty coordinator of assessment Pat Wilson said each will bring different expertise.
This past spring, the university focused on theater arts and worked with the Sarasota Opera. The university expects to bring artists who specialize in dance and movement during next semester.
"Each faculty member has a partnership and connection with an arts organization in the community," Wilson said. "It is ongoing and very well thought out."
Education majors in the PAINT program will meet biweekly to talk about the program, how it is working for them and areas in which it can improve.
In addition to workingwith local artists, studentswill engage in culturesacross the world through the PAINT program's online platform.
On the website, students will be able to connect with students at the Nazarbayev University in Stena, Kazakhstan, whose dean has been working to partner with the University of South Florida.
"We will put teams of students together to work on exercises showing art from each other's culture to have an impact on teaching practice," Osborne said. He hopes to have the website ready in 2014.
Elementary education major Kaleigh Lundy, a senior this fall, said the PAINT program was helpful in her student-teaching internship at Tillman Elementary last semester.
Lundy said she used principles from the PAINT program to develop lesson plans for second grade, pairing visual arts with math and drama with reading.
"It was fun, and the kids were engaged. They didn't take their eyes off me," Lundy said. "I think you can combine any art with any discipline."
Lundy said her favorite PAINT component is visual arts.
"You never know where it can go," Lundy said.
"During our courses at USF, we had creativity in the classroom. I am looking forward to what kids can come up with on their own."
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.