ArtsBridge gets Lawrentians and Appleton kids involved in their community

Mary Born

ArtsBridge is a program that aims to bring college students and K-12 pupils together in the classroom in order to fuse the arts – such as music and dance – with the already existing curriculum. Created in 1996 by Jill Beck at the University of California, Irvine, the program has become a national network of education partnerships between “ArtsBridge scholars” (college students) and local schools that includes programs at 22 universities.
Students participating in the program put together a proposal outlining what they intend to teach and what kinds of projects they plan on integrating into the curriculum. The scholar spends between two and three hours in the classroom each week – a total of 25 hours by the end of the program – working with the teacher and doing fun and creative projects with the kids. Clare Raccuglia, a junior, has been involved with ArtsBridge for two years. Assigned to a class of fourth-graders at a local elementary school, she focuses on combining nature and art in her projects. She uses the Fox River and Lake Winnebago to help teach the children about native cultures in the area and to foster ecological awareness at a young age. Raccuglia’s many projects with her class include nature journals and sculptures. “The kids are so great,” she says of her experience. “In one class, I asked what art meant to them and one of the kids answered with ‘art makes you happy when you’re feeling sad.’ It was so cute.”
The ArtsBridge experience is extremely rewarding, but it can be difficult. Sarah Welch, also a junior, started participating in the ArtsBridge program this year and found it to be more difficult than she had expected. “It’s almost like taking a really hard fourth class,” she says of the work involved. “It can be frustrating, and sometimes hard. However, the kids are wonderful and I think in the end it will really help me a lot in the future.”
Participation in the program counts toward observation hours for education majors like Welch who need to get experience teaching in a real classroom. “I think it’s really good to get into the classroom,” says Welch. “It helps you to see if this is something you really want to do.” For students interested in the ArtsBridge program, it is very easy to apply. Students can pick up an application at the International House on East John Street, in which they write out their proposal. Once their application is accepted, program director Jasmine Yep pairs students with local teachers who also submit requests for certain kinds of projects in various media. Any student can participate, regardless of their major. The ArtsBridge program, while relatively new, seems as if it has taken off. It is an opportunity for college students who may be interested in teaching one day to get classroom experience, as well as for students who just want to be able to enrich local kids’ lives through the arts and education.