EASE Mini-Residency Shows Pre-K Promise
“As the de Blasio administration rolls out its ambitious expansion of pre-kindergarten, it will be hard-pressed to accommodate children with special needs, special education advocates say.”
EASE is already responding to the necessity for expanded programs and services for Pre-K students with special needs. Over three weeks in May, Everyday Arts for Special Education (EASE) engaged a group of Pre-K children at Elementary School 168X in the Bronx in a series of visual arts activities based upon the EASE Curriculum and Methodology.
Not only was this mini-residency an opportunity to adapt EASE activities and strategies to be applied within a relatively short time-frame, but it presented an opportunity for EASE to integrate it’s approach to engaging with teachers and children at the Pre-Kindergarten level and to show how relevant these strategies are to students of all ages and at all stages of development.
Joan Merwyn, Professional Development Coach, Lead Teaching Artist and Co-Curriculum Creator for EASE, who led the workshops over the course of this 3-week residency, “found it extremely gratifying to apply EASE methodologies with a wonderful teacher and class of pre-kindergartners, many of whom also have an early diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).”
Not only was this a rewarding experience, but without modification, children responded with overwhelming positivity to the activities. Also, within the specific curriculum goals for Pre-K that programs are striving to meet, it became especially apparent that EASE works when applied to socialization and communication skills, early curriculum integration of ELA, basic math and science concepts.
Children in the Pre-K class explored the tactile experience of crumpling colorful tissue paper into balls and stuffing them into nylon stockings. These were later magically transformed into caterpillars by adding on small antennae and googly eyes! They also “blinged” themselves out with foil-made objects, again utilizing their ability to crumple, twist, and manipulate a material. Joan explained: “The success all EASE activities is less about what the students are doing and more about how they are guided to do the arts-infused tasks. In EASE, the creative process makes room and allows time for peer-to-peer social interactions, manners, eye contact, requesting, waiting tolerance skills, cooperation and focusing skills and the practical application of curriculum integration within EASE activities.”
Joan observed, “all participating teachers, staff and students were thoroughly engaged in creating art projects, working together (either in partners or as a team) and exploring the visual, tactile and multisensory experiences of art making and social learning…Students were also able to work more independently and to request adult help with eye contact and manners. They took pride in their work on group creations, with less adult assistance.”
The combining of two different classes yielded a typically diverse group of students from nonverbal to fluently speaking students.The activities encouraged creative forms of engagement, which allowed students of all abilities to not only participate in the art-making but to collaborate and work together very well.
“I am excited about the many potentials of applying EASE Methodologies to Universal Pre K concepts and requirements. The PD and classroom activities are designed to provide teachers with “easy”, engaging routes toward learning the basic social, communication and curriculum skills which early learners require. These skills help their students prepare to advance to kindergarten and first grade.” – Joan Merwyn
* Professional Development for teachers is the core of the EASE program. Teachers are taught, in a short amount of time, how to apply these methodologies inside their classrooms, on a daily basis.