Using Art to Help Preschoolers Prepare for School Success


The Fairfax County Office for Children, in partnership with Fairfax County Public Schools and Fairfax Futures, announced the release of “Early Learning Through the Visual Arts,” which helps child care providers and teachers use art to prepare preschoolers for academic success.

Community-based preschool teachers, family child care providers and Head Start teachers worked together to develop the “Early Learning Through the Arts” guide to show how to use museum sculptures and paintings to teach young children concepts related to math, science, language, literacy and social studies.

The guide outlines hands-on activities adults can do with children to help them better understand works of art. The guide also includes discussion questions, vocabulary words, related children’s books, guidelines for museum visits and art prints.

“The suggested learning experiences in the guide are a lot of fun, and really engage children intellectually, socially and physically,” says Betsi Closter, the Office for Children’s school readiness coordinator.

Although the guide explores specific works on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution, the National Gallery and the Phillips Collection, the activities can be adapted to exhibits in local venues, such as the Fairfax Museum, the Workhouse Arts Center, Great Falls Studios, the McLean Project for the Arts, and the Greater Reston Arts Center.

“For a museum educator, it is a special moment when early childhood educators and administrators understand the importance of and how best to use community resources like art museums,” says Maria Marable-Bunch, who consulted on the guide.

“‘Early Learning Through the Visual Arts’ is aligned with the Fairfax County Public Schools Program of Studies,” Closter explains. Copies of the guide book will be distributed to Fairfax County preschool programs.


Allison and Head Start children

The "Early Learning Through the Visual Arts" announcement was made at the Greater Reston Arts Center, where visiting children created artwork that reflected Rebecca Kamen's "Diving Nature: An Elemental Garden."


 An Elemental Garden

 Kamen's installation was inspired by the elements of the periodic table.

 Group in the garden

Involved in the announcement were, left to right: Courtney Park, Laurel Learning Center; Allison Ribiero, Lake Anne Head Start; Suzi Guardia, Greater Reston Arts Center; Betsi Closter, Fairfax County Office for Children; Rene Harry, Fairfax County Public Schools; Pam Tobey, Fairfax County Public Schools; Vera Steiner Blore, Fairfax Futures; Anne-Marie Twohie, Fairfax County Office for Children; Dianna Bozza, Fairfax County Public Schools; Maria Marable-Bunch (standing), museum educator; Maura Burke, Fairfax County Public Schools.


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