The Effingham County school system is making changes to the art reach program this year. The program, which gives students the opportunity to learn more about art, will be limited to fourth grade students.
“One of the valuable pieces of feedback that the Telfair provides us is information from surveys that teachers fill out based on their experiences every year,” Assistant Curriculum Coordinator Lynn Johnson said. “That in part drives some of the changes that happen from year to year.”
Johnson said the system wants to not only meet the students’ needs, but also the teachers’ needs through the program.
“Based on the results of those surveys the thing that came out was that teachers wanted more hands on time for their students, more in depth experiences,” Johnson said. “When we were sending multiple grade levels the time constraints inhibited our ability to provide those opportunities that the teachers were wanting.”
She said the surveys and limited recourses allowed the system to provide what the teachers were asking to have for their students but only in one grade level.
“What they will get to do is spend an extended time on a guided tour with a docent at the facility really learning how to examine and evaluate pieces of art, which in the past has been a very rushed activity,” Johnson said. “It will give them the time to slowly analyze the pieces of art in the permanent collection there.”
“Then they’re going to get to participate in a studio session applying some element of what they learned about in the guided tour in a hands on environment,” Johnson said. “They were able to do a studio session in the past, but it was very short and rushed.”
She said students also will have the opportunity to visit the interactive ArtZeum area of the center, which was another request teachers made.
“By being able to give them double the amount of time they are going to be able to do it all,” Johnson said. “We’re hoping that that will help fill the need that came about by that survey.”
Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff said the program began at Springfield Elementary School when he was principal there, and it has expanded through the county since that time.
“We became aware of the art reach grant, a grassroots art grant, that was available for local schools,” Arnsdorff said. “We began applying for some grants and had some success in having some of the supplemental programs offered.”
The program originally allotted for a resident artist to come into the schools to supplement art education.
“The Telfair began working with us through the Georgia Council for the Arts, and we began making applications for funding with Georgia Pacific and its predecessor company to develop a program where the students could not only have the experience of an artist come into the school but also students being able to go to the Telfair in Savannah and have a museum experience,” Arnsdorff said.
He said in order to provide art education to the students in the county the system must find ways to fund art programs.
“The system is left to fill a lot of gaps in providing art education,” Arnsdorff said. “The state funds specialist positions at the rate of one position for every 345 FTE. So our district would earn about 12 positions, and those positions can be used for P.E., music and art.”
The state requires 90 minutes of physical education or health at each of the 13 schools.
“That’s just another case where the state under funds us, but also there are requirements to provide the instruction, so it’s left to the local board to determine how we can meet our community’s needs,” Arnsdorff said.