posted on: Thursday, April 03, 2014
PUBLISHED: MARCH 11, 2014 12:01 AM EST
UPDATED: MARCH 10, 2014 3:54 PM EST
BY ERICA ERWIN, Erie Times-News
The paper began as a blank canvas before Braydon Bartlebaugh covered it with sweeping swatches of vibrant red, yellow and orange paint.
It was a sunset, Braydon explained.
After the paint dried, the 8-year-old artist added other elements he saw in his mind's eye: a black castle, green trees.
On a second painting he'd drawn the same scene and added a U-Haul truck. The castle's inhabitants were moving, apparently.
"I like to draw," Braydon said. "I get to use my imagination."
Braydon and a small group of second graders from Erie's McKinley Elementary School are participating in a new arts integration program offered through Mercyhurst University's Carpe Diem Academy.
Carpe Diem Academy, funded by a $1.5 million grant from the state Department of Education and launched in 2012, offers after-school programming to hundreds of students at McKinley and three other Erie elementary schools: Edison, Lincoln and Jefferson. The students receive lessons in math, reading and the arts four days a week from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.
The arts integration program is funded in part by a $5,000 ArtsErie grant and uses a teaching method called Visual Thinking Strategies.
Educators and student-teachers in Mercyhurst's education program help students to hone their observation, critical thinking and language skills by asking questions about artwork -- "What's going on in this picture?" for example -- and through a variety of activities.
During a recent afternoon at McKinley, a group of second graders finished artwork, drawing details onto painted paper.
Mary Elizabeth Meier, director of art education at Mercyhurst, had asked them what they saw in the painted brush strokes, and to find and highlight details in the image.
An 8-year-old girl added the finishing touches to a dolphin in a sea of green, orange, white and blue.
"They're exercising their imagination by searching into the picture," Meier said. "It's kind of like cloud gazing."
After they finished, the students broke into small groups and rotated among tables, doing different activities, each meant to teach through art.
At one table, four students grabbed brightly colored red, blue and yellow geometric shapes from a bucket and fit them together to build different structures: a house, a butterfly.
At another, Don Benedict asked students to roll Play-Doh into long strands shaped like snakes, and then asked them to cut the snakes first into two equal halves and then into three equal thirds.
Benedict is a graduate assistant working on his master's degree in special education and a certified teacher. He is the lead teacher for the second grade Carpe Diem Academy class.
The arts integration program helps students express what they see and feel, he said.
"It's them exploring, being able to use their creative side," Benedict said. "The best part is them being able to explain what they did to you."
ERICA ERWIN can be reached at 870-1846 or by e-mail. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNerwin.