Bossier schools to expand arts, help military families' students

Bossier schools to expand arts, help military families' students

BENTON, LA (KSLA) - Starting this academic year, Bossier public schools will have a program aimed at expanding the arts and providing more support for military-connected children and their peers.

Project SOAR is being made possible through $1.5 million in Defense Department funding.

The purpose is to increase students academic performance in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) while decreasing their social and emotional risk factors.

"This is really taking the idea of the arts and connecting it in the classroom," said Georgetee Price, military student coordinator for Bossier public schools. "So we want to see more artistic expression in English, in science, in math and how they all relate together because, really, STEAM is about that innovative creative thinking."

Each of 11 schools will get $40,000 of the grant funds to spend on technology. Those campuses also will get additional support for art supplies and materials for their counselor.

The 11 campuses are Cope Middle and Apollo, Bellaire, Curtis, Kingston, Legacy, R.V. Kerr, Stockwell Place, Sun City, Waller and W.T. Lewis elementary schools.

Students who don't attend one of those schools also will benefit from the program, officials say. The STEAM facilitator will work part time for the grant and part time for the school district; so she will be able to train teachers at other campuses.

Project SOAR will expose students to cross-curricular, problem-based learning activities developed for the classroom by Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City as well as STEAM days.

Studies have shown that the STEAM framework teaches students how to think critically, solve problems and use creativity, thus positioning them to be highly skilled, knowledge-based workers, says a statement from the school district.

"The arts go hand in hand with STEM-based education, helping children develop critical thinking skills and the ability to look at problems in various ways to find solutions," Bossier schools Superintendent Scott Smith says in the district's statement. "Project SOAR is another way we can inspire children to imagine the possibilities, unleash their creativity and be innovative."

Bossier public schools also will be working with Kimberly J. Vannest, a professor of special education/educational psychology at Texas A&M University to develop in-class supports tailored to meet the needs of military-connected students. Vannest will coordinate online support for social and emotional issues as well and make it available to students, parents and educators.

"The transition process often affects a military child's education, sometimes having a negative impact," Price said. "Project SOAR is another example of our school district's commitment to the high achievement of all students and one I cannot wait to share with our new military families."

This is the second consecutive year Bossier School District has received an education activity grant from the Defense Department.

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