In Program 5 of Art to Heart, Kofi Dennis and Ingrid Crepeau, teaching artists with the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, help students and teachers bring stories to life in the preschool classroom. Their activities vary widely—Dennis, who is from Mali, uses African drums, rhythm, and movement, while Crepeau uses puppets—but their goal is the same: learning.
The children are gaining important pre-literacy skills. They listen as the books are read to them. They “read” the illustrations. They learn about sequence. “Children can’t learn to read if they can’t remember first, second, third,” Crepeau says. They’re learning other curriculum concepts teachers and artists discussed in advance—from colors to prepositions to weather. They use their imaginations to go more deeply into the story. “We help them to focus, to draw from the book, to take the world of the book and bring it into the classroom,” Dennis says.
And they’re having fun—and that itself is important to learning. “We know so much more about how the brain works and how these early years are so developmentally important—that the thing to do is to find the best way to stimulate those little brains,” Crepeau says. “And if you can engage their emotions, they’re having fun, they’re laughing, they remember more. If you can engage them physically, it stimulates other parts of the brain. They remember more.”