SPS celebrates Early Childhood creativity with Art Show

Published 9:22 pm Monday, June 5, 2023

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Suffolk Public Schools celebrated the early childhood creativity of more than 500 students Saturday during the Early Start and Early Childhood Art Show.

Parents, faculty and staff came to King’s Fork Middle School Saturday, June 3 to see 11 elementary schools and 35 classrooms represented in the art show. All of those attending commended the children on their artistic creations at the first-ever division-wide art showcase focusing on Early Start and Early Childhood students.

Parent Vivian Figueroa was happy with her son’s inclusion in the art show, saying that it was great to see how he was developing artistically.
As he grows and progresses, Figueroa said she hopes “he is able to express himself in different ways.”

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Lead Early Childhood Special Education Teacher Stephanie Morris reflected on how a parent said it “was the best thing she ever seen.”

“I hope that people will understand that early intervention and preschool matters,” Morris said. “They are the building blocks going forward.”


Project beginnings

SPS Early Childhood Specialist Stacie Prine and SPS Coordinator of Fine and Performing Arts Dr. Joleen Neighbours discussed the beginnings of this collaborative project between the Early Childhood and Fine and Performing Arts departments. 

Neighbours reflected on being “impressed” after seeing an art show with Pre-K students held by Kilby Shores Early Childhood Special Education Teacher Elizabeth Short.

“This started a conversation of ‘how can we do this division wide?’ Stacie Prine and I began brainstorming on what could be done to make this a citywide effort and really show the integration of learning with the arts,” Neighbours said.

With enthusiasm in her voice, Prine said that she “couldn’t say no” to Neighbours’ request.

Prine said each Early Start and Early Childhood Special Education teacher was asked to collect at least two pieces of work from throughout the school year.

“Our Early Childhood students love to create, move and sing throughout the whole school day, so showcasing their hard work in an art show would be a true depiction of their creativity,” she said.


Art education importance

Even at a young age, art education plays an important role for students in their ability to learn, Prine and Neighbours said.

Prine noted how ESEC special education teachers integrate the arts into every one of their instructional areas and have seen how this integration keeps students engaged while stimulating their minds.

“Incorporating the arts into our Early Childhood classrooms in Suffolk Public Schools is key to our student’s overall development and provides opportunities for them to be creative and have fun while they are learning,” Prine said. “Our Early Start and Early Childhood Special Education classrooms use aspects of art education such as music, dancing, drawing, and painting to foster social-emotional learning, fine motor growth, and language development.”

Neighbours also provided benefits that students involved in arts programs will see, noting students “do significantly better” in their academic performance.

“Young people who participate regularly in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate,” Neighbours detailed.  “Arts participation increases test scores, including college entrance exams. Having a strong arts program in any school matters because it reflects the culture of the community. Critical thinking and creativity enable students to synthesize everything they are learning to understand the ‘why’ of ‘how’ they are learning. The arts are essential to everyone’s socio-emotional well-being and learning.”

Neighbours also emphasized how the arts allows instructors to differentiate learning for the students despite their age, ability and interests.

“Along with athletics, the arts are the best way to promote community in schools and give students a place to be a part of,” she said.

Lasting effects

Prine believes the artwork opened up conversations between children and members of their families on “what their artwork is, how they created it and why they made it that way.” 

Additionally, she said the show brought all the Early Childhood educators together to celebrate the end of the school year.

“It can often be difficult for families to come to school events during the school day due to work and prior obligations. Offering a weekend event such as the art show provides families both after hours [and] weekend opportunities to positively promote their child’s hard work and creativity,” Prine said. “Ultimately, we want the families to see how hard the students and teachers have worked this school year in preparation for kindergarten.”

She believes children benefit from seeing their art featured at a young age.

“We hope that displaying each Early Childhood student’s art show for everyone to see will leave the children feeling special and proud of themselves,” Prine said.

Neighbours beleives the art show helped students and families see how important they, their creativity and their learning are to SPS.

“We hope this will encourage a lifelong love of the arts in our students and show how important the arts are for their learning,” Neighbours said. “Our Early Start/ ECSE program is such a wonderful program that Suffolk Public Schools offer and our teachers are amazing.”

She added that this also gives them the credit and appreciation they so richly deserve.

“A student seeing their art being appreciated and honored is such a wonderful way to build their confidence and continued love for learning,” Neighbours said.