Hudson Valley Parent

HVP Feb 2015

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Page 8 of 41 ■ Hudson Valley Parent 9 I am a Hudson Valley Parent Jessica Poser: Education through the arts By BRIAN PJ CRONIN F or most parents, Saturdays are a time to catch up and recon- nect with their kids. But for Dr. Jessica Poser of Kingston, Saturdays mean catching up with a lot of kids. Poser is the director of the Sat- urday Arts Lab at SUNY New Paltz, a program that offers classes in visual and performing arts for kids as young as kindergarten and as old as 12th grade. The lab was founded in 2013 as a way for SUNY New Paltz's advanced arts education students to gain expe- rience working with kids before they leave campus for their student teach- ing programs the following semester. Campus energy On Saturday mornings, Poser and her students throw open their doors and welcome children from local public schools, private schools, home schools and even children of local migrant farm workers onto campus. "Kids are literally running to their classes here, early on a Saturday morning, because they want to get to work," said Poser. "They're super excited. That in turn gets the under- graduate students excited. It brings this whole new energy to campus." An artist herself, with an MFA in sculpture and installation art, Poser draws inspiration from watching the kids in the program follow their pas- sions and engage with the process. For the lab, it's the process that is most important, not the finished product. "We're much more interested in letting the students experiment and innovate rather that saying 'Here's what you're going to make, and it's going to look like this," Poser explained. "It's discovery based. Part of the reason we call it the Saturday Arts Lab is because we want to view it as a laboratory where everyone's invited to come in and just mess around and see what they can do." Explore and re ect Poser sees the lab as an opportu- nity for kids to get the kinds of expe- riences they don't necessarily get in their own schools during the week. As many parents already know, the arts are often the first thing cut out of school budgets when times are tight. There may not be Regents exams in piano, photography or animation, but that doesn't mean the arts aren't a vital component of every child's education. "With all of the increased time spent on testing, we're really not giving kids an opportunity to explore and reflect on their own worlds," she said. "What that means for education is pretty profound and pretty scary." Important skills Students in the lab often collabo- rate together on many of the projects, building teams and working together to solve problems. What may look like a bunch of kids stacking egg car- tons together is actually a primer for building skills they'll need throughout their educational careers. "People always talk about 'What are the 21st century skills we need to teach our kids?'" said Poser, "And we're touching on all of them here: innovation, collaboration, participa- tion, experimenting, taking chances. It's deeply embedded in the process of what we're doing." And Poser still manages to find time on Saturdays to catch up with her own 7-year-old son, Adrian. After all, he's not too far away. "He's been coming to the lab for two sessions now," says Poser. "I mean, I've been dragging him to arts museums since he was born so he's pretty entrenched. But he's a very prolific comic book writer and he re- ally loves coming here. I just wish he got more of this in his own school." For more information about the Saturday Arts Lab, including how to register, visit "With all of the increased time spent on testing, we're really not giving kids an opportunity to explore and re ect on their own worlds." At the completion of each session, Saturday Arts Lab students have the opportunity to showcase their work for the community.

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