Kickn It Preschool

Amy Julian

Miss the days of finger-painting, Play-Dough, and sing-a-longs? Under the direction of CPCS Professor Joan Arches, with support and generous funding from the University of Massachusetts and president Jack Wilson, students are able to get involved in such artistic tasks. The program, which is made possible by the Creative Economies grant, encourages college students to get involved with preschool children and toddlers through various media, putting their artistic and creative abilities to good use. The project aims to shape the plastic minds of these young children and cultivate creativity and skills that can set them up for a lifetime of success in school and beyond.

The project is aimed at low-income and underprivileged children in the community where the need is particularly great. Statistically, the vocabulary of first graders from low income families is often a little over 1/4th that of their peers, presumably because of the lack of resources and intellectually stimulating programs. By focusing on preschool-aged children, the program sets them up to succeed later throughout their academic journey and gives them the skills of expression that can help them to reach their full potential and combat this problematic reality.

Professor Arches explains that the project will be of great importance and benefit to young children in urban areas of Boston. “Artistic activities can help address the learning disparities and bring these children to the skill levels necessary for successful progress through the K-12 curriculum,” she says. Students will work with the young participants while exploring techniques like painting, photography, music, dance, and storytelling, which are, as Arches asserts, critical “in the development [of] literacy and numeric skills correlated with later school success.”

Interested students can offer help in a variety of ways, regardless of their artistic abilities. “Of course we would love to have great artists…but there are many different tasks that do not require one to be an outstanding artist,” Arches says. Some of these tasks, in addition to working hands-on with the students with art projects and other creative projects, include brainstorming creative ideas with the group of advisors, helping design curricula to implement in the program, and researching different methods of creative teaching that can integrate all students’ abilities. “We are ultimately looking for people [artists or not] who have a knowledge of and passion for toddlers and the preschool curriculum and who want to make a difference,” Arches states.

Those interested in participating in the project are encouraged to contact Professor Arches ([email protected]; 617-287-7288) or Sherrod Williams, Director of Student Leadership and Community Engagement ([email protected]; 617-287-7978).

The project is a great way to get involved with the community, share your artistic abilities, make friends, and, most importantly, make an impact on a child that can last a lifetime and set him or her up for future success. The experience will teach invaluable skills for students as well, including teamwork, leadership, and problem solving skills. “Participating is rewarding beyond belief,” explains Arches, “and learning the value of civic engagement is part of a truly valuable university education.”

Amy can be reached at [email protected]