Using reading and art to enrich students’ knowledge of SC

brantin@thestate.comMarch 4, 2013 

— Richland Library and Columbia Museum of Art welcomed nearly 200 Orangeburg County third-graders to the city Monday for a day of literary and artistic inspiration.

During their morning outing, the students toured the Columbia Museum of Art, created their own works of art, chatted with a local author and settled in at the library for a time of reading.

The visit was the launch of a new art and literacy initiative, All Around the Town: All Around the State. The program aims to increase third-grade reading skills and expand students’ historical knowledge of South Carolina while exposing them to various public cultural venues in the state.

“It was just too perfect not to do,” library children’s room manager Leslie Tetreault said of the outreach that was modeled after a similar Together We Can program offered in Richland County by the library, art museum, city of Columbia and Richland 1.

As with that program, All Around the Town: All Around the State is geared to third grade because that has proven to be a milestone for reading development, Tetreault explained.

“My dream was to make this opportunity available beyond Richland County,” she said.

Eleven more school trips are planned through the end of April as about 1,500 students from Orangeburg, Calhoun and Fairfield counties and Columbia’s Eau Claire community will take the downtown tour.

Tetreault said the program, funded by the South Carolina State Library, targets schools where students may not have as many opportunities to visit such sites.

During each visit, students are viewing the artwork of Richard Samuel Roberts – a self-taught African-American photographer who documented the pictures and rich lives of other African-Americans during the 1920s and 1930s – as well as portrait galleries at the Columbia Museum of Art. While at the museum, they will create their own art inspired by Roberts’ works.

The children also will hear from Columbia author Dinah Johnson and receive an autographed copy of her book, “All Around Town,” featuring Roberts’ photographs. They will end the visits with a tour of the Children’s Room at the library and a story time reading session under the Maurice Sendak mural “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Third-grade teachers from each school will be given a teacher’s guide created by museum and library staff relating to the visits and corresponding to the state education curriculum.

Holly Hill Elementary third-grader Nadia Lyde said Monday a highlight of the day was getting to speak with an author, and Holly Hill teacher Natalie Glover also listed the interaction with Johnson as a strong point.

“We’ve talked about her books in classes, so it’s exciting to have met her,” Glover said.

Tetreault said while the specific educational goals are to boost the students’ language arts, social studies and visual arts skills, the broader hope is to inspire them to look beyond their own communities and not place limits on what they can do or become.

“It’s as much about the heart and soul as it is can you answer these questions,” she said.

Columbia Museum of Art director of education Kerry Kuhlkin-Hornsby said the desire is that the impact won’t be limited to one day.

“We’re hoping this will make lasting impressions they can carry through the rest of their learning years,” Kuhlkin-Hornsby said. “It’s what they can do together with reading and the arts.”

Reach Rantin at (803) 771-8306.

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