United Way Continues Partnership In Arts/Education Program

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PLAINFIELD – For almost 10 years, United Way of Greater Union County (UWGUC) in partnership with the Union County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs has conducted an arts program for Union County child care centers called Learning MI Way.

Learning MI Way is a project which enables artists from the nonprofit arts education organization, Yearning to Learn, to bring arts experiences to child care centers during the school year. During their residences, artists provide education through music, movement, dramatic storytelling, visual and performing arts to not only the students, but also the teachers.


Learning MI Way’s development is based on American psychologist Howard Gardner’s theory of higher-order thinking, cooperative learning, and problem solving activities. Using their multiple intelligences through the arts, students gain creativity and learn the fundamentals of the art form they are studying as well as developing discipline, building critical thinking skills and enhancing their ability to work cooperatively while valuing each other’s individuality.

For eight weeks, in the spring of this year, approximately 45 students and 12 teachers from Neighborhood House Childcare Center in Plainfield had the opportunity to learn in a new way. In one session, the students took immense pleasure in reading a poem about how a seed became a flower. The teachers observed how the children began to explore the expressive nature of the poem through movement and personal expression which included writing, singing and call & response.

“Amazing things happen in such a short time,” said Alicia Washington, Learning MI Way facilitator. “Being creative helps to promote and encourage concrete impactful results because the children are imitating and replicating what they see, hear and learn. Through sensory activities they are able to both express themselves while learning all at once.”

The artistic goal of the program is to enhance the existing curriculum to better prepare children for academic readiness. It is the intent of the artists and project administrators that the participating children demonstrate their growth via progress on the tool – the MI Assessment. The residency allowed students of Neighborhood House to express themselves and learn in their own creative methods. Students learned how to utilize experiences from their own lives to create stories and movement. Through their individual expressions during their exercises, teachers gained valuable insight as to what forces were most influential on their students’ lives. The MI assessments will help the faculty in developing a curriculum that will serves their students in an effective manner.

In spearheading this local effort, UWGUC is excited about the opportunity to continue to implement this program at additional child care centers. Exposure to the Arts has been proven to help students build self-confidence, express their creativity and perform better in math and reading. As a result of these creative learning sessions, classroom teachers become inspired to pursue more expressive modes of teaching, and to diversify their teaching methods. They adopt a broader sense of the possibility of reaching their students through the Learning MI Way program and the realization that they and their students are capable of much more.

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