GSK gift boosts arts education

cebaker@newsobserver.comFebruary 22, 2012 

— The N.C. GlaxoSmithKline Foundation has donated $2 million to help the N.C. Museum of Art improve its Web-based art education programs that are used in schools across the state.

The museum relies on private donations to fulfill its mission of advancing art education in North Carolina's schools; the state has not kicked in any money for three years due to budget cuts.

For the past 10 years, the museum has offered a few online lesson plans on the ArtNC website, but this grant will allow it to do more.

The donation will be used to start The Big Picture, a project that improves the ArtNC website by adding more instructional tools, including a collection of more than 130 paintings and more than 90 lesson plans organized by grade level and subject.

The Big Picture also will provide workshops in different parts of the state, distance education courses, student exhibits at the museum, and networking opportunities to all North Carolina K-12 teachers.

Gov. Bev Perdue, who helped announce the donation Tuesday, said that although she spends a lot of time talking about math, science and technology initiatives, she has realized that it is a "failure to our students if we don't incorporate the arts."

Ashley Weinard, the museum's program director for the project, said The Big Picture is meant to be an interdisciplinary tool that will be used to teach students how to make connections between subjects.

Jennifer Rogers, a sixth-grade math and science teacher at Hunters Creek Middle School in Jacksonville, already has seen this happen in her classroom.

Rogers uses a painting titled "Spring on the Missouri" by Thomas Hart Benton when teaching students about soil. The painting shows a family loading their belongings into a horse-drawn cart as a storm approaches and the river rises.

While studying the painting, she said, students make observations and conclusions about what they are seeing, two skills they must use when performing scientific experiments. To conclude the lesson, Rogers' students make paint out of soil and then create their own paintings inspired by "Spring on the Missouri."

"Students love it," Rogers said. "They could spend the whole class period talking about the painting and what it means to them."

To sign up for "The Big Picture" workshops or educator expos, or to find lesson plans from the updated ArtNC website, visit www.artnc.org.

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