District officials worked with PNC to design a program that would expose kids to the arts and sciences through extra classroom resources and partnerships with museums and arts organizations, Taylor-Costen said. The idea was to connect families with those groups through field trips and classroom visits, and to train teachers so the benefits would continue even if the money dried up.
“It has been an awesome opportunity for exposure of not just our children but their families,” Taylor-Costen said.
When kids in the program go on field trips, their parents come along. This year that included trips to the North American International Auto Show, the Grand Prix education day at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the Cranbrook Science Center, and a Music Hall puppet production of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Parents also benefit from classes and programs that help them support student learning at home.
And Marshall credits the program with expanding her approach to teaching preschool after 22 years in the classroom.
“The professional development has been key, very valuable,” Marshall said. “Before, I focused on the reading and the math and making sure they could write their name. Now I know that by incorporating arts and sciences … I’m adding that missing element.”
Tayor-Costen said she couldn’t recall how classrooms were selected for the program but said district officials made sure to include schools in different city neighborhoods.
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Principal Sabrina Evans first brought the PNC program to Carver when she came to the school in 2012. She had seen the program at her prior school, the Beard Early Learning Neighborhood Center, and wanted it for Carver’s pre-Ks, she said.
“For them to have the first time going to school with all these things at their disposal, it’s like ‘Wow! I like school!’ Not only the kids, but the parents. I see more parents coming to the field trips and then I see them coming to school to participate.”
Evans was able to put both of Carver’s two pre-K classrooms into the Grow Up Great program in 2012 but when the school added a third pre-K in 2016, there wasn’t room for a third Carver classroom in the coveted program.
That’s why Graham’s students can’t participate.
“It’s lonely,” Graham said. “A lot of times we don’t even know when they have somebody coming to their classroom because it’s almost like a secret society.”
On a recent morning, when Graham’s class came out to play on the playground, her students ran past students in the school’s two PNC classrooms. The PNC kids were launching bottle rockets they had learned to make when visitors from the Charles H. Wright Museum, a new partner, brought bottles, baking soda, and vinegar to the school.
Evans said she tries to support Graham’s classroom with other resources. She sets aside $20,000 from her budget every year to pay for school-wide field trips (Marshall’s students go on those field trips, too). And Marshall says she shares as many classroom resources with Graham as she can. She also passes along ideas and tools she develops through the supplemental teacher trainings.