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Art of Learning

Photo courtesy of Harn staff

Children in Head Start and kindergarten get creative through a new program at UF’s Harn Museum of Art

As schoolchildren in Alachua County rushed into summer vacation in June, UF’s new Early Learning at the Harn program wrapped up for the season, too. And what a first year it was.

More than 500 children in Head Start and kindergarten from four area schools or centers — Duval Early Learning Academy, Fearnside Family Services Center, Terwilliger Elementary and Wiles Elementary — were introduced to a world of colors, shapes and paints through a unique partnership with the Harn Museum of Art. The budding Picassos dabbled in lessons on visual literacy, vocabulary development and individual expression.

“Early childhood education is critical in establishing a strong foundation for lifelong learning and success,” says Brandi Breslin, the Harn’s school and education coordinator. “This program uses art to support classroom concepts and educational standards while capturing children’s attention in a creative way.”
To prepare children for their campus visits, the museum provided teacher workshops and lesson plans. Fieldtrips centered on the theme “The Language of Art,” with tour guides encouraging children to investigate how images are related to words and how pictures tell stories. Guides also shared information on the elements of art (line and color) and basic math concepts (shapes and quantities). The children’s artwork was later exhibited at their schools for their parents to enjoy.

Early Learning at the Harn grew out of the museum’s longtime family program, Tot Time, which is designed for young children and their caregivers. Collaboration into the school-based program was made possible thanks to the support of alumnus Mark Avera (BA ’86, JD ’89) and his wife, Stacy, along with three anonymous donors, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation and EAD Corp.

“We are overjoyed to be working with both schools and local funders to create a successful program incorporating art in the classroom, while also encouraging family interactions based on their child’s visit to the Harn,” Museum Director Rebecca Nagy says.

Plans are to expand the program to all Alachua County Head Start classes next year.

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Early Learning at the Harn