Arts In Early Childhood

On a bleak cold winter day in the Old Town neighborhood, there was the warm smell of homemade burritos and laughter between Latino mothers and their children who worked together to paint portraits of each other through a piece of clear plastic.  Lauren Duncan, Director of Youth Programs at Sawtooth School for Visual Arts, translated for art instructor Ali Kapps, who led the mother-child art activity that reinforced both Spanish and English vocabulary and introduced the art concept of portraiture.

Sawtooth School has been working with El Buen Pastor Latino Community Services’ youth after-school program for the past 2 years by bringing arts instructors to work with Latino elementary school students.  El Buen Pastor serves low-income Latino families in this neighborhood and knows that the path to high-school graduation begins in infancy and requires the engagement of the whole family.  With support from the Kate B. Reynold Charitable Trust, El Buen Pastor is able to offer preschool readiness and parent education classes for these families that focus on child development, positive discipline, and healthy eating and more.

This fall, Sawtooth School, El Buen Pastor, and Winston-Salem State University’s Occupational Therapy Department with support from The Arts Council’s early learning and after-school enrichment target initiative partnered to establish a pilot program that will measure the impact of early childhood art enrichment and exposure on Latino children ages 3-5 years old.

Access to this program is key as these Latino mothers face many barriers including trust, language, knowledge, awareness, cost and transportation.  Odette Sanchez, Executive Director at El Buen Pastor, says “for our families, coming here, is an escape from their daily routine to a safe haven, the children light up at seeing the art instructors, and the mothers’ are overjoyed to see their children’s artwork.”

Beth Fain, Assistant Professor at WSSU’s Occupational Therapy program is thrilled to be able to provide a community immersive experience to her graduate students who will assess the developmental age of the children and their school readiness by collecting data and evaluating their gross and fine motor skills.  She says through these assessments, “we will be able to give these parents suggestions on things that would be helpful for their children to practice more.”

The goal of this pilot study is to see if early childhood art education and exposure will help to enhance low-income Latino children’s skills including cognitive, self-confidence, verbal, and collaborative work which are all needed in increase a student’s success in preschool and beyond.  It also is providing an enriching arts experience for those underserved in our community.


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