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An Anne Frank chestnut sapling, a painting entitled Bartering for a Bride and a wall sculpture spelling out the opening words to the U.S. Constitution in shoelaces are among the historic objects and art that inspired teachers and students to civic engagement in the 2017-18 school year.

The Arkansas Declaration of Learning is a 3-year-old initiative that provides teachers of art, English/language arts and social studies, as well as school librarians, with opportunity and support to incorporate art and historic objects -- from in-state institutions and the U.S. State Department in Washington -- into a year or more of lesson plans and student hands-on activities.

"It is an educational program like no other," Deana Emerson, a civics teacher at Calvary Academy in North Little Rock, said last week at a ceremony attended by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to celebrate the 26 teachers who participated in what was the third year of the initiative.

The event also marked the culmination of a weeklong in-service for 32 more teachers who are selected to participate in the initiative in the upcoming 2018-19 school year.

The We The People (black version) wall sculpture from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a painting focusing on the Statue of Liberty's torch and a Central Arkansas Library System's Butler Center for Arkansas Studies photograph of a women's suffrage rally in Little Rock were among the pieces that Emerson and her students used to ponder the modern-day relevancy of the U.S. Constitution.

Ultimately the work led to the students identifying and addressing areas of human need in their community -- hunger, homelessness, and sick and hurting children, Emerson said. Her students attempted to answer the needs by conducting a cereal drive, creating sleeping mats, and assembling personal care/survival bags for the homeless and for patients' families at Arkansas Children's Hospital.

Sara Sawyer's eighth-grade English/language arts students at Ahlf Junior High in Searcy raised money and have started the building of an art exhibition space at their school after a year centered on the theme "At the Risk of Being Heard," which explored culture, oppression and expression.

The Anne Frank tree, the Bartering for a Bride and Ambulance Call paintings -- the latter of which depicts black people surrounding ambulance workers lifting a patient on a stretcher -- were some of the items that contributed to the study that included reading, research and poetry writing.

Emerson; Sawyer; Samantha McClusky, a teacher at the Searcy Learning Center; and Sarah Mattingly-Benson, an art teacher at Thaden School in Bentonville, were given "Best of the Best" awards for their work in the Arkansas Declaration of Learning initiative.

More than 110 educators have now participated in the initiative that is a public-private partnership. More than 6,000 students have benefited, Lena Moore, deputy executive director at the Clinton Foundation, said. She noted that Arkansas is the first state in the nation to implement the program.

Hutchinson, who last week talked about the need to raise teacher salaries in the state, highlighted in his keynote address to the third- and fourth-year teacher participants in the program his personal love of historical objects and historical art.

"When you stop by the historical marker and it says what happened here and you look around and all you see is pavement -- I can't visualize it." Hutchinson said.

"You contrast that to going to the Pea Ridge battlefield and you can see it, you can visualize and never forget it," he said about the National Military Park that is part of the National Park Service. "You have that opportunity, teachers, to make it come alive. I just wish I had you in the eighth grade," he told them.

"You can truly change the world through what you communicate to our students," he concluded.

Arkansas Declaration of Learning program partners are the Arkansas Department of Education, Clinton Foundation, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Central Arkansas Library System's Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, and the U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Reception Rooms.

The Year 3 participants celebrated Friday included:

Meredith Armstrong, social studies, Camden Fairview High; Celeste Ashcraft, librarian at Mena High; Tara Ball, librarian at Cave City High; Heather Bettinardi, social studies teacher at J.A. Fair High in the Little Rock School District; Ruth Brown, social studies teacher at Marvell-Elaine High; Laura Burnett, art teacher at Van Buren Freshman Academy; Jessica Culver, social studies teacher at Ozark High; Cindy Dean, English/language arts teacher at Ramsey Junior High in Fort Smith; Deana Emerson, civics teacher at Calvery Academy in North Little Rock; Reagan Goodman, English/language arts teacher at Fulbright Junior High School in the Bentonville School District; Kayci Greenwood, librarian at Stuttgart Junior High; Karen Hall, art teacher at Greenbrier High; and Ty Hendricks, social studies teacher at Conway High;

Other Year 3 participants are Claudine James, English/language arts teacher at Malvern Middle School; Sarah Mattingly-Benson, art teacher at Thaden School in Bentonville; Leron McAdoo, art teacher at Little Rock Central High; Samantha McClusky, art teacher at Searcy Learning Center; Anne O'Neill, English/language arts teacher at Warren High; Rachel Poor, English/language arts at Waldron Middle School; Sara Sawyer, English/language arts at Ahlf Junior High in Searcy School District; Lisa Schuller, English/language arts teacher in DeQueen-Mena Education Service Cooperative; Erin Shaw, librarian at Greenbrier Middle; Christine Stewart, English/language arts teacher at Bentonville West High; Kira Suttee, art teacher at Fouke High; Terri Taylor, art teacher at Hazen High; and Pamela Wallace, social studies teacher at Hot Springs Intermediate School.

NW News on 07/02/2018

Print Headline: Declaration of Learning applauded; 3-year-old program brings history to life for students through art, other resources

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