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March 9, 2023

Strengthening Literacy Through Arts: How Experiential Learning and Joyful Stewardship are Transforming Early Education

Maria Schaedler-Luera, Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

The Strengthening Literacy Through Arts Experiences in Early Learning program is a wonderful example of how experiential learning and joyful stewardship can powerfully impact young learners. Funded by The Patterson Foundation (TPF), the program has provided more than 140 Pre-K students, nine teachers, and nine paraprofessionals from six different Sarasota Title 1 Schools with the opportunity to work with Arts Integration Specialist Jessica McHugh and other professional teaching artists.

Through its integration of creative movement and storytelling, the program has facilitated students’ ability to recall and retell stories with greater detail, leading to improved attention spans. Teachers have reported significant growth in vocabulary retention, particularly among English Language Learners (ELLs). This has led to improved academic outcomes, with students exhibiting a greater ability to sequence stories, recall facts, and comprehend texts.

Moreover, the program has helped students develop their creativity, physical coordination, and knowledge about different subjects. Students have used creative movement to explore letter making and have studied sharks and manatees to create movement sequences that show key ideas about each creature. They were able to recall the key facts weeks after creating these movements to express what they learned.

The program has effectively enhanced students’ literacy abilities through movement and acting, and it has also opened avenues for them to relate literacy with other subjects. For example, students got the chance to visit Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, where they learned about different animals while also honing their gross motor skills and body coordination, resulting in a valuable and engaging learning experience.

In addition to improving academic outcomes, teachers have observed increased kindness and support for classmates and boosted participation among shy students. Furthermore, the program has equipped teachers with more strategies to capture their students’ attention and teach self-regulating skills, utilizing interactive methods such as arts, dance, and movement in their teaching.

The program has created a joyful learning environment where students can explore their creativity and develop physical coordination while gaining knowledge about different subjects. By combining joy and learning, the program has created an environment encouraging students to be curious, engaged, and invested in their learning.

But the impact of this program extends far beyond just the students who have directly participated. By investing in early childhood education, and specifically in programs that incorporate the arts and experiential learning, the community is laying a strong foundation for future generations and providing young children, particularly those from underserved backgrounds, with the tools and skills they need to succeed in school and life.

The Strengthening Literacy Through Arts Experiences in Early Learning program is a powerful example of how TPF’s investment in education can have a lasting and positive impact on individuals and communities. By supporting initiatives like this one, we are investing in the future of our community and creating a better, more equitable world for everyone.


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