Megan Coward, Art Education alumna, has been working for the Peace Corps in Cambodia for the past year teaching English and facilitating arts-based workshops and projects. She has graciously shared some of her experiences with us:
“In September 2012, after completing a 3-month rigorous training program, I swore in as an official Peace Corps volunteer and moved to a small district town in Kampong Cham province to begin my 2 years of Peace Corps service. My primary assignment is to co-teach English courses with host-country national English teachers sixteen hours per week, in grades seven through twelve. I work with seven counterparts in different capacities, including co-teaching English courses, facilitating workshops and clubs, and planning community projects. When I was initially asked about my site preferences, I merely desired to work with a school and community who would be open to arts-based projects. In addition to volunteering to teach visual arts and drama with a local organization and facilitating visual arts clubs and arts-based workshops at my high school, I also work with other volunteers to organize two arts-based Peace Corps projects called Art Olympics Project and Create Cambodia Arts Project.
The Art Olympics Project is a visual art education program, which aims to provide valuable creative experiences for youth, introduce alternative teaching practices and content for teachers, and introduce arts experiences into communities. I’ve worked with other volunteers to develop a visual art curriculum that includes lessons ordered by difficulty level and art media, including assessment tools, visual art and instructional glossaries, and resources to aid in setting up community visual arts events. The Art Olympics Project is in its fourth year of execution, which has encouraged the planning committee to expand its targeted population to include primary students, while also reintroducing a traveling art show component that will teach schools and communities about gallery set up and community visual arts events through hands-on experience.
The Create Cambodia Arts Project is an arts-based program that begins in Cambodian villages where students participate in arts clubs centered in visual art, theatre, dance, music, or creative writing, encouraging youth to focus on artistic expression and learn different ways to access creativity. Create Cambodia strives to equip students with a basic arts education, while affording host country nationals the opportunity to access arts education learning materials and gain instructional experience. Students then prepare special projects to showcase at the Create Cambodia Arts Festival, which is a three-day event that brings together Cambodian students, educators and professional artists with Peace Corps Volunteers to celebrate and encourage the creative capacities of Cambodian youth. The Create Cambodia Arts festival is in its third year of execution, which has influenced a stronger emphasis on teacher and community partner training, and the development of a festival planning manual and an arts-education booklet, including lesson plans, fundraising tools, and a planning guide for community arts events.
As an art educator, I came to Cambodia with a lot of lesson plans, project ideas, and resources to share while still understanding that development work requires an expressed interest from the local community in order to sustain the project. The Peace Corps staff did a great job in selecting my community and placing me in my
district’s secondary school because there was already an arts presence at the school when I arrived. While public schools in Cambodia do not have formal arts education, my school has maintained a traditional music and dance programs prior to my arrival.
I was able to assist in the expansion of their arts programming by developing a visual arts program locally. Also, introducing students to the Create Cambodia Arts Festival and Art Olympics Project has aided in further development of students’ artistic skills and knowledge.”
FSU Department of Art Education is proud of Megan and all our alumni. Please share your news.