OGDEN -- Weber State University has announced a $3 million grant from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation and plans to use it to enhance arts education for children in the Ogden, Weber, Davis, Box Elder and Morgan school districts.
The money was donated to WSU's Telitha E. Lindquist College of Arts & Humanities and Jerry & Vickie Moyes College of Education.
Half of the funds will be used to create curriculum, offer educational workshops to area teachers and begin an outreach program, sending WSU arts and teaching students into schools to use the arts as a teaching tool in such subjects as math and science.
The other half will pay for an endowed chair filled by Tamara Goldbogen, who will run Weber State's program and tailor it to the needs of the local community.
"We are very excited and very grateful to Beverly Taylor Sorenson's vision for the state and for the education of its elementary-age students," said Madonne Miner, dean of WSU's Telitha E. Lindquist College of Arts & Humanities.
"Over the years, she has donated funds to several institutions across the state. We happen to be the last one to receive funding, but we are grateful."
Sorenson died this spring. Anne Crocker, president of the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, is her daughter.
"We have been deeply committed to the support and growth of high-quality arts education programs throughout the state of Utah, and Weber State University is no exception," Crocker said.
"The endowed chair and arts program at Weber State University will stand as a fitting tribute to my mother's vision and lasting legacy of maintaining arts education to benefit elementary students, teachers and the surrounding community."
Miner said Goldbogen will meet with people from other universities who are doing the same job, and she'll also come up with ideas on how best to serve local students.
"We might have Weber State students who are interested in music education. A student might be paired with an elementary school teacher doing a math class. Music and mathematics share an interest in rhythm, beat, numbers and fractions," Miner said.
"There are all kinds of ways you can introduce mathematical concepts to children through music.
"And when you use music to teach, students are more engaged and more likely to listen. Math concepts become part of their bodily knowledge if they are moving their feet, tapping out beats on a table, or getting up and conducting. Those mathematical concepts become a part of them more than if you were teaching straight math."
Some Weber State students have previously used art to teach at Horace Mann and James Madison elementary schools and have been told by classroom teachers that attendance is up.
"It's been pretty remarkable," Miner said. "Kids clearly like this, so they show up."
In a previous job, Goldbogen collaborated with students in the creation of a play, "Tomato Girl," Miner said.
"It taught students about biological life cycles, from seed to plant to vegetable, and the need for air, water and minerals from the dirt. They learned all that through the theater work they did."
Goldbogen said the plan is to expand arts offerings at Horace Mann and Madison elementaries, and to bring WSU pre-service teachers to some other area schools starting in WSU's 2014 spring semester.
"We are training dance education, visual arts education and theater education students at Weber State, and we also have a fabulous education college," she said.
"We're really looking forward to working with area schools and know that arts learning is really important. It helps to activate the entire curriculum.
"We want to make sure every classroom is a place for creative learning. Beverly's lifelong commitment to supporting arts in Utah is evident. She has reached more than 100,000 Utah children, and we are ready to come on board."
Miner said many school districts have been forced to cut back on arts education since the economic downturn began in 2008, but recent research shows that combining arts with other subjects increases information comprehension and retention.
"As dean, I am truly grateful to the Sorenson Legacy Foundation and to Utah legislators for believing in the arts and the importance of arts integration in grade schools. By doing this, we are going to change students' lives for the better."
Contact reporter Nancy Van Valkenburg at 801-625-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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