October 2017 Magazines 89123 - Page 58

Making a Difference Melissa Richardson: Melissa Richardson, a master teaching artist with the national Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, recently visited Las Vegas to train new teaching artists. Teaching Through the Arts The Smith Center in the Classroom Teaching artist Melissa Richardson clapped her hands on her knees and sang as the class of 4-year-olds before her watched eagerly. “What do actors do? Actors use their body, and actors use their voice,” she chanted in the classroom of the Hill and Dale Child Development Center in Las Vegas. “Can you use your voice to make a cow sound?” She further instructed the preschoolers in stretching into pretend trees and using different vocal pitches to express characters in “The Three Bears.” This not only kept them engaged, but helped them retain information by experiencing it in an active and creative way, and while the children might not have realized it, they were learning to tell a story with acting. This serves as a key example of just what the Southern Nevada Wolf Trap (SNWT) Early Learning Through the Arts program, currently offered by nonprofit The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, is accomplishing. Under the program, The Smith Center’s professional teaching artists partner with pre- school educators for seven-week, in-classroom residencies, during which the educators learn to incorporate music, theater and movement into teaching all curricula. With the program pro- vided at no cost to schools, more than 1,000 local early childhood educators have participated. 58 October/November 2017 “Applying arts-based teaching strategies can have so many benefits,” says Candy Schneider, Vice President of Education and Outreach at The Smith Center. “Just think of learning about the world through a song or acting out a story, or through movement. Teachers who have participated in the SNWT program have found these methods help with student engagement, retention, communication skills and more.” The Smith Center offers the program as an affiliate of the national Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts. The organization recently sent Richardson, a Wolf Trap master teaching artist, to Las Vegas to train new SNWT teaching artists. Now The Smith Center’s SNWT program is expanding, thanks to a $100,000 grant from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. This will fund professional development for 75 Southern Nevada teachers, through 50 SNWT in-classroom residencies. Roughly 1,500 students will participate, including those at at-risk preschool centers and schools in the 89106 zip code. For teaching artists who have participated since The Smith Center launched SNWT in 2008, they have already witnessed its powerful impact. “What we do is so applicable for everything,” says Kate St. Pierre, SNWT teaching artist. “The arts reach everyone.” Learn More To learn about The Smith Center’s teaching artists and its Southern Nevada Wolf Trap Early Learning Through the Arts program, visit www.TheSmithCenter.com.