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Research Center Delves Into Art in Classrooms, Personal Finance Training and Recreation
by Susan Katsaros


from Dateline (June 19, 2003)


Is student performance enhanced by visual arts instruction in elementary school?

That’s just one of the recent evaluations and surveys recently completed by the Social Science Research Center under the direction of Gregory Robinson.

The center recently completed an evaluation of the impact of art education on elementary school students in Santa Ana Unified School District as part of a $23,306 contract from the California Arts Council.

Robinson, an assistant and two experts in elementary education curriculum studied how artists presenting lessons on art can affect overall student performance.

“The evaluation uncovered that the artists knew art, but that didn’t mean they could communicate art concepts with an elementary school student,” said Robinson.

Following the initial evaluation, artists in the program received training on how to teach material that is age and grade-level appropriate, as well as how to deliver the information so it is understood by elementary school students.

Based on the evaluation, teachers requested lesson information prior to having artists come to their classrooms. “The classroom observation results indicated that engaging the classroom teacher with the artist leads to a better experience for the artist and the students,” Robinson added.

Now in the second phase of the grant, the SSRC is examining student performance both prior to artists receiving additional instruction and after such training.

Additionally, the SSRC assessed teachers who were present while the artists conducted the lessons to determine if they gained skills from these in-service opportunities. “We’re interested in seeing if the teachers are incorporating art while teaching the three Rs,” said Robinson.

“Our survey of teachers clearly indicates that 84.3 percent believe that visual art education should complement the core academic curriculum, rather than serve as an alternative to, or respite from it,” added the researcher.

In other recent projects, the SSRC evaluated a pilot program that teaches personal finance training to teachers and surveyed Californians on the importance of outdoor recreation areas.

The California Jump$tart Coalition’s “Personal Finance for Teachers in Training” demonstration project was developed to provide finance management skills and infuse teacher learning into the classroom. The SSRC, under a $16,405 contract from UC Riverside, appraised the program, its curriculum and outcome measures.

Under a $48,986 contract from Cal State Chico, the SSRC also surveyed 2,500 California residents on their feelings about recreational areas.

“The reason for this survey is to determine if parks should cease with their expansion efforts, allocate money from lottery funds for parks, or increase the recreation focus on safety and quality outdoors,” noted Robinson.

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