Educational lesson combines art and literacy

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“Can you imagine a shipwrecked sailor living on air and seaweed for eight days? Can you imagine a trail of yellow butterflies fluttering their wings to songs of love? Once, there was a little boy named Gabito who could.”

This excerpt is taken from Dr. Monica Brown’s children’s book, My Name is Gabito: The Life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a story that delighted about 25 fourth-graders from several Pitt County schools last Thursday at the Lucille W. Gorham Intergenerational Community Center (IGCC).

The children, who are part of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers After School Program, funded by a NC Department of Public Instruction grant, learned all about self identity as Dr. Alice Arnold, East Carolina University art professor, read them the story.

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ECU professor Dr. Alice Arnold and her elementary-education students read My Name is Gabito: The Life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

The book discusses the life of Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature who has been hailed as one of the greatest authors of the 20th century. Marquez’s well-known stories include One Hundred Years of Solitude, No One Writes to the Colonel, In Evil Hour, The Autumn of the Patriarch, and Love in the Time of Cholera.

After hearing the story, the fourth-graders had the chance to write their own autobiographies, with the help of Arnold and several ECU elementary-education students from Arnold’s methods class. The fourth-graders were also able to use a variety of art supplies including markers, glue, and colorful icons of a variety of designs such as castles, cats, birds, and pumpkins, to illustrate their personal stories.

Arnold brings ECU students to IGCC three times every semester to help with the learning activities.

“It is so important for students to work in the community, and the Center is a wonderful model-learning site,” she said. “Learning is more authentic for my ECU students in a real learning environment and it is also more fun to teach real children rather than just talking about it.”

Arnold’s students agree about the benefits of volunteering at IGCC.

“I love interacting with the students and seeing the stories they come up with,” said senior Monica Gilmore.

Sophomore Susi Finotti agreed that the interaction with students is a great experience.

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ECU student Susi Finotti helps Pitt County fourth-graders write and illustrate their autobiographies.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to be around kids,” she said. “I knew I wanted to teach because I love kids and helping others.”

Somer Alderson, sophomore, echoed Finotti’s sentiments.

“I love teaching language arts to kids and seeing them get so excited about the stories,” she said.

For the fourth-graders, combining art and literature is an awesome idea.

“I love to do art and be creative,” said elementary student Precicious Boyd. “I am putting a castle in my book because I like to pretend that I am a princess.” Student Dadrian Brice agreed that being creative one of the best aspects of art. “I like drawing and using my imagination,” he said.

Fourth-grader Tianna Pollard best summed up the benefits of learning more about art and what she enjoys about the subject.

“I like art because you can create and be anything you want to be,” she said. “You can go on adventures, and you can add pictures. I am putting a crown in my book because I am a diva.”

21st Century Learning Centers After School Program and the Lucille W. Gorham Intergenerational Community Center (IGCC)

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers After School program for third, fourth, and fifth graders is funded by a NC Department of Public Instruction grant.

The children in this program receive tutoring from certified teachers four evenings per week in the areas of math, science and language arts in accordance with the North Carolina Public Schools Standard Course of Instruction. They also attend enrichment programs and field trips.

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Dr. Alice Arnold explains the art exercise to a table of Pitt County elementary school students.

Along with art classes with Dr. Arnold, activities the children have participated in include music appreciation from jazz/gospel musician Mel Holder, bully awareness from Waverly Manley, crime prevention from the Pitt County Sheriff’s Department, and fire safety by Greenville Fire and Rescue Squad.

The Lucille W. Gorham Intergenerational Community Center, (IGCC) founded by the late Dr. Lessie Bass, ECU School of Social Work professor, is a partnership between the City of Greenville, East Carolina University, and the West Greenville Community. IGCC's three main branches are, ECU’s College of Human Ecology, the Pitt Community College’s GED program, and the Little Willie Center’s after school program.

According to IGCC’s mission statement, the Center’s goal is to encourage residents to be independent and self-sufficient by enriching living and social conditions, increasing economic development, community involvement, improving and advocating educational opportunities, stimulating health awareness, and providing outreach networks. All residents of the west Greenville community, regardless of age, race, creed, religion, economic status, or educational level can benefit from these services.

By Meagan Williford
University Marketing