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Learning…with art

3,500 students from around the state were invited to the Governor's Mansion to take part in a unique instructional experience in art.

The First Lady's Children's Arts Festival was created by Alabama First Lady Lori Allen Siegelman and is a collaborative effort with the Corporate Foundation for Children. In this event, the First Lady's Children's Art Festival brings art to Alabama students who are deprived of enrichment opportunities.

"Education is our opportunity to enrich a child's life," said First Lady Lori Allen Siegelman. "Every child is special, and each and every one of them has value and the potential to become a successful adult."

It is with this in mind that the first lady set out to gather some of the most inspiring artists and educators to explore new concepts in teaching through art expression.

"Allowing the arts to interface with a traditional learning lesson, students quickly absorb the lesson and retain it, she said. "When children are given a chance to do what is natural for them-color, paint, sing, dance and play in a safe and creative environment, there are fewer discipline problems, and greater cooperation."

Combining over 30 instructors and artists, the festival incorporates 20 different venues, 10 each in visual arts and performance arts.

"The instructors that attend with the children are active participants-they get lesson plans and gain hands-on training in building them," said Sara Strange, Arts Specialist with the Department of Education. "These lesson plans have enough material to last for a whole year."

Strange said the program is designed for the participating instructors to bring what they have gained back to their schools and share with their colleagues.

"The lesson plans we have developed are very rich in resources, utilizing web integration."

The entire program was a hit with the sixth graders, who learned many different ways to involve the normally mundane subjects with fun and artistic expression.

Students were eager to voice their opinions of the day's events.

"I learned how to relax while in class," said Donna Blackburn.

"It was a really fun experience," said Jeremy Norrell.

When asked what she enjoyed the most, Renee Burnett said, "I learned how to paint and dance."

Felicia Albritton enjoyed learning spiritual dancing, as did Haley Stinson and Jessica Gibson. "We really enjoyed the program, and think it is very spiritual," they said.

Greenville Middle School Instructors had positive responses also.

"This has been the best field trip I have ever taken the students on, because they are not pressured to be quiet-they can have a good time," said Mrs. Deana Roper.

"If we can turn on a light bulb to enhance teacher instruction, then we have accomplished our goal," said Strange. "This is just another useful tool."