In a 10th-grade language arts class last year, students at the DeQueen-Mena Education Service Cooperative spent time carefully studying the Anne Frank Chestnut Tree from the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. A sapling from the tree that stood outside Anne Frank’s secret annex was donated to the library in 2015. Anne frequently wrote about the tree in her diary while hiding from the Nazis in World War II.
As part of a lesson titled “Looking at Adversity Through Objects,” the students studied this tree, as well as paintings from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms. They also studied essays written by high school students who were at the Rowher Relocation Center in the 1940s. The essays are part of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies’ collection. By studying artifacts and pieces of art housed right here in our state, students were able to examine the concept of adversity in a whole new way.
We highlight this example to show you what is possible through the Arkansas Declaration of Learning Program. Last week, the Governor recognized several teachers and mentors across the state who are helping to make this project a success.
Arkansas is the first state to participate in this national program. Through national and state partnerships, 6th through 12th grade school librarians and art, English language arts and social studies teachers use historic art and objects from partner museums and libraries to develop lesson plans that focus on the importance of stewardship and civic engagement. Since the program began in 2013, 110 educators have participated and more than 6,000 students have benefited from the program.
This program is giving our teachers a way to enhance our students’ understanding of history and to encourage civic engagement.
Led by the Arkansas Department of Education, program partners are Crystal Bridges Museum, the Clinton Presidential Library, U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms, Central Arkansas Library System’s Butler Center for Arkansas Studies and the Clinton Foundation.
To learn more about the program and to see a list of past and current program participants, visit the ADE website at https://bit.ly/2Ig48WQ. The webpage also features a video about the program.