Spencer Museum receives $1.4M from Department of Education to help Kansas teachers bring art into their classrooms
LAWRENCE — The Spencer Museum of Art has been awarded a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for a five-year project collaborating with K-12 educators across Kansas to integrate art and art therapy into their classroom teaching. This is the largest federal grant the University of Kansas has ever received for arts education.
The grant will expand the Spencer Museum’s Partners in Education Across Kansas (PEAK) program, which facilitates communities of practice between K-12 educators and museum professionals. Guided by Spencer Museum staff, each community of practice builds skills for using art and cultural objects to enhance classroom teaching and increase social emotional learning among students over a three-year period. Educators learn new skills in year one, apply those skills in their teaching in year two and share those skills by leading trainings for others in their community in year three.
Department of Education funds will establish five new PEAK communities beginning with teachers in Topeka, McLouth and Salina public schools.
“This Department of Education grant is an exceptional demonstration of the power of investing in people, investing in creativity and investing in the arts to enhance the communities of Kansas,” said Barbara Bichelmeyer, KU provost and executive vice chancellor. “I’m so appreciative of this grant as it allows our outstanding team at the Spencer Museum to truly enrich the lives of Kansas schoolchildren, their families and their communities.”
In addition to working with museum educators and collaborating with one another, PEAK teachers will learn from a licensed art therapist how to integrate art therapy practices into their teaching. Each community will also be mentored by a teacher who has already participated in the PEAK program. Activities will include visits to the Spencer Museum as well as museums and arts organizations within each community, classroom visits from museum educators and artists, and workshops hosted by community arts partners.
“After participating in the PEAK program for more than a year, I have made valuable connections with teachers across Kansas and gained many tools to help with my teaching. I have learned about specific artworks and artists that can help me make cross-curricular connections and experienced various lessons that combine language, history, science and art,” said Rachel Schreck, K-12 McLouth art teacher.
PEAK teachers will co-create lesson plans and resources that will be available on the Spencer Museum’s K-12 educator resource website, which is free and open for anyone to access. This grant will also provide stipends for participating PEAK teachers as well as supplies and instructional materials for use in their classrooms.
Kristina Walker, Spencer Museum director of education, said the expansion of PEAK will help more teachers across Kansas build their skills in arts integration, social emotional learning, and leadership over the course of the grant.
“The PEAK program can be a national model for deep, sustained partnerships between teachers and museums that is mutually beneficial,” Walker said.
Photo: Teachers attend a workshop at the Mulvane Art Museum for the Spencer Museum’s Partners in Education Across Kansas program.