Mykayla Gale found her passion for elementary education during high school. She was a teacher’s assistant for the Extended Day Kindergarten class, an after-school program to help children who fall behind in school and prepare them to be successful in future years.
One day she asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. Each student responded with similar answers: I’m not good at school, I’m not smart and I probably won’t do anything cool when I grow up.
“This was shocking because I was expecting them to say ‘the President’ or ‘an astronaut’,” expressed Gale. “It broke my heart to hear these five and six year old children, during their first year of school, doubt their ability to succeed.”
Gale realized that children have very little control over what happens to them. Among other things, they don’t get to choose their economic situation, family, or school. However, with guidance and positive role models they can become anything they set their minds to.
“I decided I wanted to make a difference in kids’ lives,” said Gale. “I want to be the type of teacher that makes sure each kid leaves the classroom knowing they have every skill they need to be successful and feel ‘good at school’.”
This decision led her to major in elementary education at Southern Utah University. During her time here she fell in love with SUU’s focus on art education. She learned how to incorporate arts into other subjects to enhance learning. This concept inspired her EDGE project, a student-designed project part of the SUU curriculum.
For EDGE, Gale prepared and hosted a fine arts workshop for children ages 3 to 8 years old. She organized activities to expose them to theater, music, dance and visual art. The workshop took place during the holiday season, so she incorporated gingerbread men, snowmen, tree ornaments and other holiday traditions.
As Gale continues to learn she looks to the examples of her SUU professors. One professor in particular that stood out to Gale during her project was Alisa Petersen, SUU’s Beverley Taylor Sorenson Endowed Chair of Elementary Arts Education.
Petersen has a passion for the arts, teaching and children. She teaches most of the SUU classes about how to implement art into teaching.
“As a result of Petersen’s teaching and example, I had the courage to put on this workshop on my own,” said Gale. “I used many resources from her classes and relied on her personal success stories of how much children love the arts.”
One challenge she faced was creating lesson plans appropriate for a wide range of ages. That meant she needed to come up with adaptable activities. One idea she came up with was to do a gingerbread man play. The older children would direct it, the younger children write it and the youngest hand out props.
The play ended up being her most successful activity. She read a gingerbread man story and guided a few theater activities to warm everyone up. Then, she turned the time over to the children and let them create a reenactment to perform to their parents.
Overall, Gale felt that her project was a success and helped her grow as a person.
“This project was important to me because I feel very strongly that creativity in childhood is key to future success,” expressed Gale. “I now have more confidence as an educator and want to continue to incorporate art into education.”
Gale is planning on student teaching in the fall and hopes to start teaching in her own classroom next year. She plans to continue to integrate the arts into her lessons as much as possible because she knows how valuable it can be to children.