SchoolArts Magazine

APR 2019

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Page 48 of 62

E A R L Y C H I L D H O O D G iles County, Virginia, is located in the heart of Appa- lachia. It boasts ninety-two square miles of the Jefferson National Forest, fifty-two miles of the Appalachian Trail, thirty-seven miles of the ancient New River, and hundreds of miles of trails and back roads that lead to waterfalls, fishing streams, and endless natural wonders. Our old-growth forests are home to white-tailed deer, bobcats, eagles, sev- enty bird species, and more. Unfortunately, Giles County is also one of the most impoverished areas in Appalachia. Fifty-four per - cent of our children under six live in a household that makes an income of half the Federal Poverty Level. As a result, the Giles Early Educa - tion Project (GEEP) was developed in 2012 to address local poverty through the children. During the past five years, volunteers have worked to increase the number of preschools in the public school sys - tem, bring books and art experiences to hundreds of children, advocate for teachers and guardians, and col - laborate with the public schools and their USDA-sponsored program to provide free summer lunches to chil - dren and adults in the county. Each day during the summer months, the school system sends buses out to the far reaches of the county to pick up children and bring them to one of two school cafeterias where a hot lunch is waiting. After lunch, children can take part in a variety of activities provided by GEEP, such as our library, block area, writing station, and beading. Most popular by far has been the art studio space. The Art Studio Together we work with fiber, wood, clay, paint, paper, adhesives, and many natural materials. During stu- dio sessions, children sit side by side, sometimes sharing chairs if we don't have enough. The close atmosphere at the studio table gives the adult vol- unteers an opening to offer resources and support. In this way, we can begin to counter poverty with aesthetics. Addressing Literacy Issues The Appalachian Alphabet project grew out of my desire to address the literacy issues I saw in many of the children. Often the younger children in our program were disinterested in books, and it was not unusual for the eight- to seventeen- year- olds to tell me they couldn't read. Some were upset by it, some were embarrassed, and others had just given up trying. The children seemed inspired to address this problem. Working as a mixed-age group solidified their sense of community and com - mitment to the project. Taking inspiration from our beautiful sur - roundings, we decided to create a Lynn Hill The Appalachian Alphabet project grew out of m esire to address the literac ssues I saw in man f the children. Johnny needed to study for a spelling test and found using the alphabet letters to be more fun than traditional rote methods of practicing. CONSTRUCTING AN APPALACHIAN ALPHABET 44 APRIL 2019 SchoolArts

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