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Educating our Early Educators

May 23, 2019 | Features

As part of Chapman Cultural Center's mission, we are dedicated to improving access to the arts for all in Spartanburg County. This access includes even the youngest members of our county who are often the most impacted by arts in their early lives. 

With that in mind, Chapman Cultural Center launched one of the counties newest efforts for Early Childhood Education. This training focuses specifically on the inclusion of arts-based learning and curriculum for early childhood educators. Last weekend, Chapman Cultural Center hosted 29 teachers in the new training designed to allow educators to stimulate creativity in their students. 

Presenters for Dramatic Play and Visual Art for Creativity and Imagination were renown mime and teaching artist, Jef Lambdin, and USC Upstate professor of Art Education, Dr. Mary Lou Hightower. Jef Lambdin is a professional mime and performer and is a teaching artist Fellow with A+ Schools in North Carolina. Dr. Mary Lou Hightower helped develop Chapman’s Muse Machine STEAM Institute for teachers (now in its 25th year.)

In addition, Chapman Cultural Center partnered with Catherine Mack, who is currently pursuing a graduate degree at the University of South Carolina with a focus on drama therapy, as a consultant for this initiative. Catherine led the trading and presented the rationale and importance of the arts and creativity in early childhood learning. She also designed the curriculum and deliverables that the participants received. 

Jennifer Evins, President and CEO at Chapman Cultural Center, says: “Being prepared for kindergarten is key to educational success for all children and research shows that arts education in preschool increases kindergarten readiness and reduces chronic absenteeism. Over the last forty years, we have provided the K5-12 students and teachers of Spartanburg County with an arts advantage that other counties do not have. We’re extending this training to include early childcare providers so that even our youngest children will have access to quality arts education.”


Recent research conducted by the Spartanburg Academic Movement has shown that “only 47% of children entering kindergarten in Spartanburg County are ready.”  Chapman Cultural Center and First Steps believe integrating creativity and the arts into preschool classrooms will have a myriad of positive effects, especially for those who live in poverty which is nearly 28% of all children in Spartanburg County according to the United Way of Piedmont. In a study conducted at Mississippi State University, schools with arts-integrated curricula saw an increase in test scores and learning for students with low socioeconomic backgrounds specifically reducing or eliminating academic achievement gaps.
The arts and creativity teach children to take healthy risks, see from others’ perspectives, increase student self-motivation, and teach life skills like empathy and teamwork. All these skills are needed to be kindergarten ready and are also world-class skills needed by 21st-century graduates to be successful.

Independent studies of the Wolf Trap Institute (which focuses on teacher professional development) and their more than 30 years of experience, affirm that the infusion of arts-integration strategies into curriculum content enhances early childhood development, supporting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), language and literacy development, health and wellness, bridging the economic achievement gap and providing children living in disadvantaged communities better access to quality education.
Evins concluded, “We are thrilled to be working with First Steps, Spartanburg Academic Movement and Mary Black Foundation to pilot our first year with the hopes to train all preschool teachers in Spartanburg County in the next three years.”

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