STARKVILLE, Miss.--Some Tupelo Public School District third-graders are so talented they now may add higher education experience to their budding resumes.
A group of 38 intellectually gifted students enrolled in the Enrichment and Challenge Support Program at Pierce Street Elementary School visited Mississippi State's College of Architecture, Art and Design as part of district's focus on arts integration.
"We feel that integrating the arts into the classroom will help our kids become critical thinkers, a skill they will need for their college educations and future careers," said ECSP teacher L.V. McNeal.
Lori Neuenfeldt, coordinator of the college's Visual Arts Center Gallery and Outreach Programs, agreed.
"In the past, schools have been promoting the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program but found something was missing, which was creativity," Neuenfeldt said. "Now, there is the creation of the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) program, where art fits in with science and math equally."
During the visit, MSU student volunteers from the college's Dean's Council worked with the third-graders on two arts-related projects, with the first focused on architecture.
Melinda K. Ingram of Odessa, Fla., and Ashlyn Temple of Cordova, Tenn., fourth-year architecture majors, organized a design challenge in which the young visitors had 15 minutes to construct the tallest tower possible using 20 sticks of spaghetti, masking tape and string--and a marshmallow.
"This activity has been done with all ages, including high-ranking business executives, and studies have shown kindergartners usually do the best," Ingram explained.
The students' creations mimicked those results. In the first round, parent chaperones provided assistance, but none of the towers stood on their own when time was up. On the second try and without parental help, several Pierce Street students had standing towers as time expired, with the winning tower reaching 24 inches.
For the next challenge, the students moved to the art department's Visual Arts Center Gallery. There, they were introduced to a poster exhibit, "Ben Ga Wa: From Seoul to Mississippi," by Korean artists O8AM, 1000Day, Gwaja and Sakiroo.
"One of the initiatives of our department of art is to engage the K-12 audience through the galleries here," Neuenfeldt said. "It's important for young students to see artwork in person."
After taking in the creations on display, the Tupelo students separated into groups to create collage murals that responded to the hanging posters. Using partial cutouts from magazines, they applied their young imaginations to draw in missing pieces and, through teamwork, create their own murals.
"When students make creative pieces influenced by the artwork they've just seen, they are taking the time to think critically about the material and formulate their own opinions and thoughts," said Neuenfeldt, who also is an art history lecturer in the department.
As a follow-up to their MSU visit, the students wrote stories about the murals they created that will be displayed alongside the gallery artwork.
"Several of my students are really into art," McNeal said. "Getting to meet college students with similar interests really showed them that they can pursue that passion, and they are especially excited that their work will hang in the gallery."
Additional information about the art department's outreach programs is available from Neuenfeldt at 662-325-2973 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about the College of Architecture, Art and Design, visit http://caad.msstate.edu.