Writing, drawing, poetry and natural science all come together — in Arkansas A+ style — in the “Growing Champion Classrooms” project of the state committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The committee, supported by Entergy Arkansas, the School of Forest Resources at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, the Arkansas Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, will provide lesson plans and full-color poster reproductions of Linda Palmer’s drawings for her exhibition, “Champion Trees of Arkansas: An Artist’s Journey,” to Arkansas A+ schools, schools that use arts-infused teaching across the curriculum. Arkansas A+ is an initiative of the Thea Foundation, the North Little Rock nonprofit that promotes both arts education and arts-facilitated education. 

You can see the lesson plans, created by Arkansas artists Virmarie DePoyster and Lisa Krannichfeld Walden, at the Arkansas Forestry Association website. The lesson plans, for grades K-8, meet state frameworks and Common Core guidelines, and most importantly they sound like a lot of fun. For example: “Under the Cherrybark Haiku,” for grades 3-5, will study Palmer’s “Cherrybark Oak/Leaves” drawing, imagine standing next to the tree and compose a haiku based on that visualization, and they’ll make drawings based on what Palmer’s technique shows about light and shadow. They’ll talk about where the cherrybark oak grows, and what animals feast on its acorns or nest in its limbs. This is the idea of A+ teaching: Using the engagement of art as a way to teach in many areas, in this case close observation, writing and nature study.


Melanie Landrum is executive director of Arkansas + schools.