Crayola teams up with MCPS to enhance student performance

James Wells, an innovative teaching and learning manager with Crayola, leads a professional development session with MCPS educators at Brown Elementary in Columbia. Photo by Mike Christen.
James Wells, an innovative teaching and learning manager with Crayola, leads a professional development session with MCPS educators at Brown Elementary in Columbia. Photo by Mike Christen.

From Mike Christen, Columbia Daily Herald –

Following the release of new statistics showing that nearly half of the state’s graduates are in need of remedial training as they enter college, a local partner with Maury County Public Schools says they are working with the district to improve students’ performance in the classroom.

The newly-revealed records, which showed the number of Tennessee graduates who were in need of remedial training in math and reading from the 2016-2017 school year, indicate that Maury County Public Schools saw 47.4 percent of its recent graduates requiring math training, a total of 164 students, and 31.8 percent of students, or 110 pupils, behind in reading.

Across the state, a total of 46 percent of the 33,000 high school graduates who were set to enroll in Tennessee’s public colleges at the end of the school year required remedial math training, and a total of 33 percent did so with reading.

The most recent test scores from the 2018 TCAP testing period show 24.2 percent of MCPS students scored below the state average in high school English language arts, 61.6 in high school math, 38.9 in high school science and 45.3 in U.S. history.

But representatives of the Crayola CreatED program, a new partnership launched with MCPS at the start of this school year, say they are working to change the way students learn and teachers teach.

“Research has shown that children learn best when we treat them as human beings, with social and emotional as well as academic needs,” Gianna Sutley, a representative of Crayola told The Daily Herald. “More specifically, children require a broad array of skills, attitudes and values to succeed in school, careers and in life. Further research has shown these skills are best developed through creativity, which is why three elementary schools in Maury County are testing Crayola’s CreatED program to help their educators put creativity at the core of learning.”

The school district has partnered with the nation’s largest provider of craft supplies to bring new, creative lessons to the county’s elementary school students that work hand-in-hand with state standards.

Sutley said that since launching the program, teachers have seen higher engagement among students and increased parental involvement.

Before students returned to school last August, teachers from Maury County’s elementary schools gathered at Brown Elementary School to learn new methods to boost, student’s creativity using the arts as a basis for curriculum in an effort to meld critical thinking and creative expression.

The teachers sat in the seats of their own students as they worked on projects, coloring, sculpting and collaborating inside the library at Brown Elementary.

James Wells, an innovative teaching and learning manager with Crayola, led the educators through creative lessons, such as coloring and sculpture-making that complement state standards. The seminar was one of three planned for Maury County’s teachers this year.

“This gives teachers the ability to impact all learners,” Wells said. “We want to turn schools around and change mindsets, ultimately building a love of learning in students and kids.”

Wells said the lessons that he shares with educators have been tested and proven to show a change in the classroom.

“We have the opportunity to embed this on many different levels,” said Breckon Pennell, principal at McDowell Elementary School. “We incorporate art, not just for the sake of art, but for the sake of thinking.”

She said the initiative allows for Maury County’s educators to take project-based learning, one of the school district’s main points of focus, to a new level, changing the way students absorb and retain information in the classroom.

“We can provide students with additional opportunities to express themselves, but at the same time, apply additional thinking in the classroom,” Pennell said. “This takes it much further for them.”

The program is part of a larger effort to increase academic performance at three of the school district’s elementary schools, McDowell, Brown and Highland Park.

Director of Pupil Services Ron Woodard said the initial phase of the proposed Imagination Schools program costs roughly $54,000 over three years, which is paid for by a grant through the Tennessee Arts Commission.

The second phase of the program, set to begin at the start of the coming school year, will see further alignment to state standards, with the addition of larger projects in the effort’s third year.

“These projects will allow elementary school students to see what career application looks like in action using art-infused methods,” Sutley said.


This article originally appeared in the Columbia Daily Herald on 2/17/19. Posted with permission.