The Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts will develop the stART smART Network, a nationwide online early childhood education community that provides and sustains professional development opportunities in literacy and the performing arts for early childhood educators. The program is an extension of stART smART, in which Wolf Trap Teaching Artists/Trainers train early childhood (ages 3-5) teachers in developmentally appropriate performing arts lessons by linking them to children's books, enabling the teachers to meet recent education standards relating to literacy and arts-based curriculum.
The stART smART Network will: (1) extend educators' live and direct training into sustained learning with regular access to Wolf Trap Teaching Artists/Trainers in remote sites; and (2) create a community of early childhood professionals and Wolf Trap trainers via online technology that transcends geographical distance.
The limited resources available to schools, childcare centers, and other non-profit agencies with which Wolf Trap works, along with the restricted time educators have for professional development and the distance between Wolf Trap and its 15 regional sites across the country, combine to limit or prohibit sustained interaction between the teaching artists/trainer and teachers. The stART smART Network will connect three of Wolf Trap's regional programs: the Center for Education at Wolf Trap in Virginia, the Center for Arts Education/Memphis Arts Council in Tennessee, and the Creative Arts Team of New York University. Training for artists and teachers in stART smART methods and ongoing instructional support will be achieved through in-person instruction, Internet technology, and videoconferencing.
A key component is training the teachers in appropriate technologies so that they will be comfortable with the Internet-based aspects of the program. Teachers will be able to demonstrate and document activities they develop for artists and other teachers through digital video recording and videoconferencing, receiving instant feedback and disseminating new activities to their peers. Teachers will receive regularly scheduled update trainings, the content of which will be developed in response to participating teachers' classroom experiences as communicated through digital video documentation and the completion and submission of online assessment/evaluation measures. ArtsLink team members will lead these trainings in three-way videoconferences for teachers. In addition, the stART smART Network will provide teachers with a forum for discussion in which they may submit questions to be answered by other teachers and/or Wolf Trap Teaching Artists/Trainers.
The stART smART program will serve Head Start and other early childhood teachers in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and New York. During the three-year period of the award, 216 teachers and approximately 4,320 children will participate and/or benefit from the ongoing implementation of a literacy and arts-based curriculum through the stART smART Network. Successful implementation of the stART smART Network will result in the development of a model for using technology economically and efficiently to sustain professional development learning experiences for individuals in geographically diverse locations.