Tuesday, March 3, 2009

American Art Helping Students Picture America's History

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Teachers know that students get excited about history when it is presented to them as a story, and that pictures make stories come alive. While textbooks offer facts about historical figures, pictures and artwork introduce us to real people.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has launched an initiative to give students of all ages and learning styles the opportunity to better understand our country's past, people and its ideals through art. Picturing America (PicturingAmerica.neh.gov) is a new education resource coming to 56,000 K-12 schools and libraries across the nation that tells America's story through forty images of great American art.

Pictures like Washington Crossing the Delaware allow students to enter into the great stories of our history. Seeing Washington lead a boat of patriots into battle for liberty inspires students to develop their own insights into important themes like freedom, leadership and democracy.

Art can inspire otherwise disengaged students. "I used the images in a lesson with fifth graders, where we looked at Bingham's The County Election and Karales' Selma-to-Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965," said Cheryl Wolf, a librarian at William McKinley School in New York City. "Some students, who don't ordinarily participate, were clearly drawn into the discussion by the visual element."

Proficient students think in new ways, developing cognitive, social and personal skills, when looking at art. "Through Picturing America, my students are forging a relationship with the history of United States, and are engaged in deep, creative thinking about the identity of our country," said Sara Paulson, a Library Media Specialist at Manhattan's PS 347, the American Sign Language and English School. "Children, many of whom are not even American citizens, are connecting to some of the landmark events of American history through these images in our school."

In addition to students at 56,000 libraries and K-12 schools, pre-elementary school students from economically disadvantaged families will also benefit from this program. All 20,000 Head Start centers across the U.S. are using Picturing America resources to promote early childhood and family learning.

Picturing America's images and resource book are available for everyone online at www.PicturingAmerica.neh.gov.

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