DOTHAN, Alabama – October 20, 2020 – The Wiregrass Museum of Art is partnering with Dothan City Schools (DCS) to provide online professional development for DCS’s A+ Art schools teachers and a virtual museum tours program for all teachers, students and families in Dothan’s public schools. DCS has committed $30,000 to the development of both programs, which will launch on Wednesday, October 21, and will be free for participating teachers and students. The virtual tours program will be available to anyone outside of the school system for a fee.
“Art can be a powerful tool of communication. Considering the restraints COVID-19 has placed on society, we shouldn’t forget the arts as a tool for bringing the divide caused by this deadly disease,” said Dr. Dennis Coe, acting superintendent of Dothan City Schools.
“While limited in our ability to sometimes meet face to face, the virtual climate allows for numerous opportunities for exposure to classic art material. Partnerships with entities such as the Wiregrass Museum of Art do nothing but strengthen the cultural, emotional, and educational experiences of our students, while at the same time emulating what school/community partnerships should be,” said Coe.
The online professional development program will be conducted via Google Classroom. The program is divided into a fall and spring module, with the fall module focusing on arts integration in the K-6 classroom, and the spring module focusing on methods and digital tools that can be used to develop arts-based lesson plans. Instruction will be asynchronous with weekly office hours conducted via Zoom. The courses are self-paced and can be completed in four sittings. Participants will be eligible to receive CEU credits if completed by December 5 and May 8 respectively.
“The professional development course is designed to help deepen educators’ understanding of what arts integration is, as a concept, and how to make it happen in their classrooms. By offering this course as an asynchronous, self-paced experience, educators can easily fit this into their schedules and can take additional time with projects or concepts as needed,” said Brook McGinnis, WMA’s art educator.
The virtual tours program was imagined as a replacement for WMA’s robust, pre-COVID Bus on Us program, which brought thousands of students to the museum each year for in-person tours and hands-on art activities. The virtual program, which is ideal for classroom teachers and remote learning environments alike, includes a 45-minute recorded tour experience, led by one of WMA’s knowledgeable volunteer docents. The half-hour long tour will be split into three 15-minute segments, each focusing on a different work of art on display in the museum. Teachers will also receive a pre-tour video explaining the role of museums, along with a packet of coordinating discussion questions and activities based on the tour content. Materials will be designed to drop into Google Classroom without need for conversion or can be easily edited to fit any student’s needs.
“The virtual tours have been created with flexibility in mind. They are asynchronous and broken into three easy-to-digest, 15-minute segments which gives educators options in how to incorporate the videos into their curriculum. Because they are pre-recorded, teachers can use them in the classroom, both physical and online, or assign them as homework. Flexibility is also faceted into the tour activity. Teachers will receive a choice board that gives them freedom to choose how best to interact with the art. They can choose one or multiple activities from the choice board or allow their students to choose,” said McGinnis.
WMA will gather feedback from teachers and participants through surveys from the professional development and virtual tours programs to guide future development of museum programming. Based on feedback from the tours program, WMA will explore the possibility of offering a synchronous tour program in the spring.
This partnership with DCS allows WMA to make the artwork on view in the galleries and the museum’s educational offerings more accessible to area teachers and students, especially those in remote learning environments due to COVID-19 restrictions. Access to an arts-based education can improve a student’s critical thinking, concentration, and communication skills. It broadens cultural awareness, and for some learners can improve self-esteem and interpersonal skills. It is WMA’s mission to elevate the role of the arts as an essential tool to enrich the educational experience of all students and to improve the quality of life for everyone in the museum’s community.
About Dothan City Schools
Dothan City Schools works to prepare all students for the choices and challenges of the 21st century. The school system’s goal is to prepare all students to participate productively and responsibly in a rapidly changing society.
About the Wiregrass Museum of Art
The Wiregrass Museum of Art inspires a lifelong appreciation for the visual arts by providing innovative educational programs that engage diverse audiences through the collection and exhibition of quality works. Since its founding in 1988, WMA has offered educational programs, nationally-acclaimed art exhibitions and community events throughout the year. Its Board of Trustees guides the long-term vision and strategic goals, while its membership, City and County support, and grant funding provide the resources needed to fulfill its mission.
WMA’s galleries are open to the public every Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. General admission is always free.