By KERRY KRISEMAN
Public Relations Manager
The calendar says it’s summer, but some students in Pinellas County Schools’ 21st Century Learning Program are creating pathways to success as they create art, learn from experts, and engage in activities and support the whole person.
The 21st Century Community Learning Centers introduce students in grades 3-5 throughout Pinellas County to strategies that support core English and language arts and math curriculums, fitness, nutrition, and social and emotional development. Creative Clay’s role is to support learning by engaging participating students learning about their world through art making.
“The goal is to improve the academic performance of students with the greatest need in these core areas by addressing the entire child and family dynamic,” said Brittany McDonald, 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program Director.
Creative Clay Teaching Artist Ashton Sanchez travels to Eisenhower Elementary, Dunedin Elementary, High Point Elementary, Gulfport Montessori Elementary, New Heights Elementary, and 74th Street Elementary to teach classes that incorporate the program’s curriculum into an interactive art project that explores animals from around the world.
“(My class) is oriented around teaching students about new places across the globe, as well as focusing on animals in those areas,” Sanchez said.
Students will get to see the animals they’re studying up close at venues such as Zoo Tampa and the Clearwater Aquarium. Portions of the class involve self-directed learning, which allows students to take ownership over their learning. Students choose their animal of focus from a page provided by Sanchez, or they can pick their favorite animal. Then, they use pencils, watercolor paint, and markers to create their own animal trading cards.
“We are allowing the students to expand their own creativity in the colors, animals picked, and other elements they choose to incorporate in their card like background trees, flowers, and other animals,” Sanchez said.
The ability to choose in learning has the power to engage students. After students choose their animal, they learn its identifying characteristics through the reinforcement of concepts such as shape, body style, and color.
“For example, the head of a panda bear is very round like a basketball,” said Sanchez. “The goal is to get the students excited about not only the process of making art with different materials, but also learning about animals from around the world.”
According to Pinellas County Schools, the goal of the 21st Century Learning Program is 100% success. McDonald believes that is attainable, through the help of community partners and experts who lend their time to teach students.
“Creative Clay has done a wonderful job of integrating student art lessons that align with our weekly academic themes this summer,” McDonald said. “Our students were very engaged in the lessons taught by Ashton, and they enjoyed painting.”
Creative Clay’s history with Pinellas County Schools (PCS) is rooted in the partnership that is the Extended Transition Program for 18–22-year-olds. “We just completed our 15th school year partnering with PCS Extended Transition and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the PCS’s 21st Century Learning Program many summers to come as well.”
“Collaborating with (Creative Clay CEO) Kim Dohrman and her team has been a great experience,” said McDonald. “We enjoy their support of education through art and look forward to continuing this creative partnership next school year.”