News from the Field

CONNECT WITH ART: A Collaborative Project of PS 57, Wagner College, Staten Island Mental Health Society and COAHSI


Program Overview

The "Connect with Art" program, now in its 2nd year, blends the NYS Learning Standards for Social Studies with those of the Arts for third grade students at PS 57. Using a different art-based text each session, Wagner students meet with PS 57 students on Friday mornings, beginning in late September for a nine-week period. Working in small groups and using age-appropriate texts, Wagner students will engage the third graders in a variety of learning experiences that include demonstration, hands-on project making and writing exercises designed to increase their literacy.

The program's curriculum was developed by Wagner College educators Dr. Lori Weintrob (History) and Dr. Laura Morowitz (Art History) in concert with the third grade teachers at the Park Hill school. Each weekly lesson focuses on achieving a particular NYS arts and social studies learning standards goal "to help youngsters improve their proficiency in reading and, at the same time, introduce them to the power and pleasure of art," according to Dr. Weintrob.

The Wagner College student mentors receive expert training in techniques of helping young children to read- and to love reading- by Ms. Marcia Jacobson, a former NYC Department of Education reading teacher instructor. Ms. Jacobson is also the Staten Island Mental Health Society's trainer for its well-known School Reading Volunteer Program, which operates at PS 57 and 33 other Staten Island public elementary schools.

Staten Island Mental Health Society provides the books for the "Connect with Art" program. The books include easy biographies, narratives and collections by well-known painters, musicians, dancers and poets and other artists from Benjamin West, to Pablo Picasso, to Jacob Lawrence. The Council on the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island provides coordination, consultation and research assistance.



The Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island (COAHSI) is an arts-service organization, dedicated to fostering, promoting and developing arts, cultural, and humanities activities on Staten Island. We provide technical assistance services to artists of all disciplines, cultural organizations and the general public. We operate the VISIT (Vital Information for Staten Island Tourists) Center in the Whitehall Ferry Terminal in Manhattan, administer multiple grant programs for artists, schools and community organizations, publish a bi-monthly newsletter, "Arts and Letters", and maintain a community cultural calendar which can be accessed through our website at

PS 57 - The Hubert H. Humphrey School - Staten Island, NY
PS 57 is a diverse collaborative school community committed to excellence and equity in student and staff education. Parents are welcomed participants in all aspects of school life. Here, students learn about self, the community and the world. Through integrated classes, special programs and extra-curricular activities, students are afforded the opportunity to be problem-solvers, critical thinkers and effective communicators. They are encouraged to experiment, predict and take risks. Teachers and administrators embrace challenges and obstacles and learn from them and grow, continually striving to reach their goal of creating a school of lifelong learners.

Special Programs include literacy initiatives, integrated technology programs, instrumental music and pond conservation while Extra-Curricular Activities include Chess in the Schools, Vermont Farms for City Kids, Trailblazers Breakaway Camp, Junior Achievement, Music Outreach, Guggenheim Museum, Project Arts and Audubon Society.

Since 1895, SIMH Society, a not-for-profit children's services agency, has been preparing for Staten Island's future - one child at a time.
Its mission is to diagnose and treat emotional, behavioral, organic, and developmental problems; to create and support programs and environments that reduce the risk of disability and advance the optimal development of children; to increase knowledge of the causes and treatments of mental illness and developmental impairment; and to promote public awareness of, and support for, the value and availability of our services.

Achieving Our Mission
The SIMHS provides a comprehensive range of award-winning, direct clinical, educational, and therapeutic mental health and related programs to Staten Island children (and their families), who are emotionally disturbed, developmentally disabled (children and adults), neurologically impaired, dependent on drugs and alcohol, and/or economically disadvantaged, with the goal of helping our clients and their families improve the quality of their lives. Since September 11, 2001, the Society has expanded its services to Staten Island children and families who were directly or indirectly affected by the terrorist attacks.

Each Year the Staten Island Mental Health Society

Serves one-in-ten Staten Island families
Treats over 6,600 individuals
Provides over 181,000 child and family evaluation and treatment sessions
Furnishes services at 25 sites, by 275 professional and support staff
Has volunteers donate over 50,000 hours of services

The Staten Island School Reading Volunteer Program
The SIMHS considers its award-winning School Reading Volunteer Program one of its most effective services. The program not only has a direct impact on the students, but a positive outcome for their families and schools.
The program was launched in 1960 by Mrs. Elizabeth W. Pouch, a philanthropist who was one of the founders of the Staten Island Mental Health Society. Mrs. Pouch was asked by SIMHS's Founding Director Dr. Richard M. Silberstein to devise a method of providing one-on-one instruction to young students who needed extra help in reading, at no cost to the schools of the families of the children.
A mental health professional, Dr. Silberstein knew that for these children, improving their reading was more than an academic issue. Children who cannot read lack confidence and self-esteem, which often leads to a poor attitude, defiant behavior and other mental health disorders. Therefore, if the children could become better readers, positive mental health benefits, such as self-confidence would follow.
Mrs. Pouch sought the help of three friends. Together, they were able to make arrangements with teachers and principals to tutor a handful of children right in their home schools. The women also knew that it would be easier to engage the children and gain their trust if they took a personal interest in the students, and offered their friendship as well as instruction.
The Reading Program has been operating in collaboration with the NYC Department of Education for more than 20 years. As the years passed, the program grew in stature and volunteers grew in number. In the last school year, 250 tireless, dedicated volunteers donated 19,200 hours tutoring almost 500 children in 35 Staten Island public elementary schools. Most volunteers stay in the program for several years and some have been tutors for more than ten years.

WAGNER COLLEGE - Staten Island, NY
Wagner College sits on a hilltop, overlooking Manhattan which is located just twenty-five miles away. The 105 acre campus is located on Grymes Hill and its suburban setting provides students and visitors alike with a wealth of countless cultural, intellectual and professional opportunities a short ferry ride away.
Beginning in their freshmen year, Wagner College students participate in a nationally recognized, sequential program that blends theoretical learning with practical experiences during all years of their college education.
Experiential learning uses meaningful practical experience to enhance the learning of abstract concepts. Through direct involvement with people and issues, students learn to apply their knowledge to real life situations. Students learn about different social and professional cultures by working directly within these communities. As active participants, students will also share their knowledge, ideas and perspectives with members of the on-site community and their classmates.
Beginning with the very first semester at Wagner, Wagner students are involved in learning communities that introduce real-world problems by directly linking field work with their coursework. Learning Communities are clusters of courses that are linked together by a single theme and share a common set of students. The faculty plan their Learning Community courses with overlapping assignments, common readings and joint problems so that courses share some common ground. These Learning Communities are combined with carefully selected field sites in which students typically spend three hours per week, observing the organization, its practices and dynamics. Reflective Tutorials emphasize writing skills and discussions, where students link their field experiences directly to the academic course work, students learn how to scrutinize ideas in the light of real world experiences.

WHAT WAGNER STUDENTS HAVE LEARNED FROM "CONNECT WITH ART…I have personally been blessed with the art education all through my years. From elementary all the way through high school, art played an extremely important role in my life and the lives of all the kids I knew. Without my art education I know for a fact I would not be the person I am today.
Just working with the students at PS 57 through "Connect with Art" for a short amount of time has made me realize how utterly important the arts are in schools. Art time is a special time where kids can express themselves as individuals and gives them a chance to show their creative side. Thought, persistence, patience, creativity and determination are all aspects one needs when pursuing the arts. Within the first three times of being at PS 57, I have noticed a huge change in the kids. At first they seemed skeptical on why we were there to teach them about art. Now when they see us walking through the door they get so excited they cheer for us. To bring that much joy to children just warms my heart. Each week they are eager to open new books and learn about a new artist and that particular artist's techniques. They get huge smiles on their faces when we tell them about our next art assignment. To me, denying kids arts is denying them their full education..." Nina Urban, RFT 112, Wagner College

"I came from an excellent arts-aware elementary school. I was always involved in theatre that was in collaboration with education… I believe that artistic expression is so important in formulating a well-rounded education that leads to success in later life. The arts teach acceptance, creativity, freedom and encourage children to be themselves… The students at PS 57 are so eager to learn. They are enthusiastic and bright. The sheer fact that I can help provide the students at PS 57 with something so essential as artistic expression is so priceless not only to these students but to myself as well. I am realizing that by handing them a marker every Friday and saying 'Go for it!' I am helping these children in so many ways. Through my participation in this project I see that we are providing these students with opportunities to explore something that they might use to build upon in the future. They are the next generation, and along with us, will run this country. If the arts are not reinforced now, and not a prominent piece of their education, will it ever be?" Kat Murphy, RFT 112, Wagner College