USF College of Education, Manatee school partner on arts integration project

BRADENTON -- A growing body of research supports integrating arts into teaching, and the College of Education at the University of South Florida Sarasota Manatee is cultivating community partners to help Manatee County students.

In the fall, USF Sarasota Manatee will be paired with Rogers Garden Elementary School to consistently bring integrated arts education into the classroom in an effort to help increase student retention and learning.

"It's not just having the student draw a picture after reading a story," said Brianne Reck, the executive director at the Center for PAInT at USF. PAInT, which stands for Partnerships for Arts Integrated Teaching, runs a number of collaborations and programs in the county.

An arts-integrated lesson, for example, may use physical motion to explain the water cycle, or have students act out movie scenes to understand why writers use dif

ferent adverbs.

"It's a deeper knowledge -- knowledge that they own," Reck said. When students own the knowledge, they are better able to use it.

The Rogers Garden program, Project EAGLE, will start in the fall. Project EAGLE -- Early Arts Guided Learning Experiences -- is funded through a $35,000 grant from the Manatee Community Foundation, $10,825 from the university and $8,970 from the school district, a total of $54,795 for the yearlong project.

Pre-kindergarten teachers have already received some instruction from faculty in USF's College of Education in how to integrate the arts into classroom lessons and will receive continued instruction this summer, according to university officials. In the fall, student interns from USF Sarasota-Manatee will join the teachers to observe and assist them in the classroom.

Marie Byrd and Helene Robinson, faculty in the College of Education, will monitor the program and meet regularly with Rogers Garden principal Latrina Singleton and Robin Thompson, the Manatee school district's director of early learning.

"Having community partnerships is a big deal, especially with USF," Thompson said.

Rogers Garden was chosen because it's basically the district's "early learning hub," Thompson said.

Manatee teachers and students will directly benefits from having the professors and professional development from USF right on campus.

Once the program concludes at the end of the spring in 2016, researchers at the college will analyze data, including grades and test scores to measure the program's success.

While the program is starting with the youngest students, the ideas can translate all the way up, Reck said.

"We're starting really at the ground level," she said.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.