A child’s imagination can flourish inside or outside of a classroom’s walls, no matter if students are social distancing and wearing masks amid a pandemic or playing at home with their families.

A donation from the Brunswick chapter of the Links, Inc., promoted creative thinking at two preschools earlier this year. For the second year, the chapter donated chalk art supplies to preschool programs in hopes of supporting this critical kind of learning in early education both at school and home.

“The brain is a muscle, so you have to stimulate it,” said Sheree Lattany-Gardner, director and owner of Little Promise Keepers Learning Center in Brunswick. Little Promise Keepers and the HeadStart preschool in Camden County were both recipients of the Links’ donation this year.

Myrna Amos, co-chair of the Links chapter’s art facet, visited the students on the day that the chalk art kits were donated and observed their activities engaging with the new supplies.

The teachers set up art activities as well as science experiments, to offer a full range of STEAM — or science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics — educational opportunities for the students.

“For that age group, for the pre-K and the younger age group, the development of the fine motor skills is very, very important, and art is an engaging activity for them to be involved in with learning,” Amos said. “They can learn STEM activities but at the same time be able to express themselves.”

Chalk art can teach students to engage in learning about texture and to practice their mental visualization and illustration skills, Lattany-Gardner said. It also helps hone fine motor skills and activates the mind, encouraging imagination and word play.

“If you talk to a child and ask, ‘What do you see?’ they’ll say they see the tree,” she said. “… Sometimes they don’t know how to describe it, but if you let them open up their vocabulary, open up their imagination and learn to see and describe it, the tree becomes bigger, it becomes more.”

During the pandemic, she said, when much has been confined to the school’s interior spaces, creative outlets are even more important, as those activities teach children to explore and create through their imaginations.

And the art kits benefit their at-home learning as well, Lattany-Gardner said.

“It’s a good little tool for them,” she said. “They can take it home, and hopefully parents will be able to do that with them.”

The Links aimed to make sure their donation benefited students in underserved communities in the Golden Isles, said Shirley Douglass, co-chair of the chapter’s art facet. The donation was funded through a grant provided by the national Links organization.

“We were very excited for the opportunity to expand to Camden this year,” she said.

The goal is to ensure these students are ready to be successful the day they enter kindergarten, Amos said.

“We’re trying to make sure that we’re helping those that need the most help and trying to be proactive so that they are successful when they do arrive,” she said. “Putting them on the same level with all children to have access to any opportunity to excel in their academic learning, that’s what we want to do.”

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