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WMA partners with Dothan City Schools to address grade-specific learning needs

WMA partners with Dothan City Schools to address grade-specific learning needs

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Melissa Rea
Director of Advancement, WMA

Dothan, AL – November 17, 2022 – The Wiregrass Museum of Art (WMA) is continuing its partnership with Dothan City Schools (DCS) for the 2022-23 school year, and has aligned its arts learning resources to address identified learning needs for crucial educational benchmarks at the 1st, 4th, and 6th grade levels.

Specifically, WMA is helping to address key areas of learning at these grade levels through its in-gallery tours and hands-on learning in the studio. On the tour of WMA’s galleries, students are led by museum educators and trained docents as they learn about select pieces on display, are encouraged to ask questions and share their thoughts in a fun small group setting. This method of content framing questioning boosts literacy, comprehension, and observational skills, which amplify students’ academic understanding and interpersonal abilities.

Tours for 4th graders will elevate STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) learning strategies, where art and science collide for an arts integration tour. After students tour the galleries, they will create a STEAM based art project, like DIY kaleidoscopes or line plot cityscapes. Sixth grade students will take tours all about visual art, to encourage their inner creativity and build on their visual arts lexicon and historical understanding. Students will tour the galleries and then create a work of art inspired by an artist or specific work they encountered on tour. Previous projects include monoprint landscapes and origami/watercolor mixed media pieces. Easy, yet engaging projects have been designed to instill confidence in artistic skills and inspire students to enroll in the advanced art classes at Dothan Preparatory Academy.

First graders will visit WMA in the 2023 spring semester for literacy focused tours, which place special emphasis on language arts and literacy in response to the Alabama Literacy Act. Students will create a work of art inspired by a work on display and engage in a literacy activity, such as crafting an artist statement about their work, completing a sequencing worksheet, or writing a short story about the piece they created. WMA will also incorporate other strategies during the lesson, like word bubbles, retelling directions, and emphasizing good conversational skills, which are also aligned with the Alabama State Standards for Art and Language Arts. Previous projects include paper story quilts and visual storytelling drawing inspired by the work of Kathryn Tucker Windham.

“WMA’s student tours are an amazing option for a local field trip for free! The tours provide an engaging art experience for students of all academic levels. The docents maintain students’ attention and their hands-on lessons make everyone feel like an artist,” said Crystal Forehand, visual arts teacher at Kelly Springs Elementary School.

Students from Kelly Springs Elementary School listen to WMA docent, Jim Gillis, as he speaks about works from WMA’s Permanent Collection

Participation in these tours benefit DCS educators during their time in WMA’s galleries and studio, too. Teachers observe WMA art educators leading an art lesson with their students, learning each activity’s challenges for classroom and time management, in order to model the activity for their students back in the classroom. Teachers also receive lesson plans with relevant Alabama State Standards, to reiterate and expand on ideas learned at the museum.

“We developed our tour program based on conversations with area educators and administrators to ensure that we created an experience that is fun and engaging for everyone, including teachers. By inviting groups into our classroom studio, educators observe how we lead an art activity, including how we face challenges and then triumph! Our hope in doing this is that they feel more confident leading art activities with their students. We want students and teachers to walk away feeling inspired to create in their own classrooms and beyond,” said Brook McGinnis, WMA’s education director.

In this partnership, DCS is providing WMA up to $20,000 to support a portion of the administrative and operating costs for tours for all students at these grade levels. The museum’s Bus on Us program, a field trip transportation reimbursement program, is also being utilized to remove barriers to participation. Bus on Us serves all Dothan City Schools and Houston County Schools, providing up to 8 reimbursed buses for field trips to each school in the two systems, and is supported by a grant from the Windgate Foundation, with additional sponsorship from area businesses AngelTrax, Lewis-Smith Supply, Seay, Seay & Litchfield, and SmartBank.

Field trips and tours at WMA are available for public, private, and homeschool groups throughout the year, and museum staff, docents, and volunteers welcome students of all learning levels and abilities. To schedule a tour, contact Alexandria Turner, School Programs Coordinator and Art Educator, at aturner@wiregrassmuseum.org.

WMA also provides free, Alabama State Standards-aligned lesson plans on its website at https://www.wiregrassmuseum.org/lesson-plans/. For more information about WMA’s annual arts programming and education initiatives, call 334-794-3871 or visit wiregrassmuseum.org.

About Dothan City Schools

Located in Southeast Alabama, Dothan City Schools serves more than 8,000 Pre-Kindergarten through 12th-grade students throughout Dothan, Alabama. Nineteen schools comprise the district, including 2 Pre-Kindergarten centers, 11 elementary schools including one special admission math and science school, one middle school that serves grades 7-8, one 9th grade academy, one virtual school for grades 7-12, and one high school that serves grades 10-12, and two program sites dedicated to specialty education: one for students receiving alternative education and a career-technical education facility for grades 10-12. Each program seeks to develop engaging and meaningful opportunities for students at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Dothan City Schools is committed to providing quality instructional programs that promote knowledge and skills and build life and career characteristics in our students. Our schools are designed to create well-rounded students by challenging them with opportunities that help meet their needs, nurture their talents, interests, and aptitudes and expose them to new experiences.

About the Wiregrass Museum of Art

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 inception in 1987, 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.

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