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Florida Center for PAInT director awarded $2.6 million grant to bring arts-integrated pedagogy to civics classrooms

By Georgia Jackson, University Communications and Marketing

Denise Davis-Cotton, the director of the Florida Center for Partnerships in Arts Integrated Teaching (PAInT), received a $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to launch a professional development program for educators who teach social studies in elementary and middle schools that serve low-socioeconomic status households and communities.

Denise Davis-Cotton

Denise Davis-Cotton

Over three years, the project, titled “Bill of Writes Storytellers,” will bring together 24 classroom teachers from Illinois, California and Washington D.C., 12 teaching artists and 24 community members in 12 nonprofit public charter school organizations — including Distinctive Schools, Inc., The School of Arts and Enterprise and Caesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy — to encourage student involvement through project-based learning and promote arts-integrated pedagogy.

“BOWS delves into core concepts of historical thinking within American history and civic discourse by providing opportunities for teachers and students to explore original documents like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and lesser-known stories from American history to express their insights,” said Davis-Cotton, who received an $8.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 2021 to promote arts integration as a catalyst for increasing student engagement.

The project will be made possible in collaboration with USF faculty — including Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences; Marie Byrd, an associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies; Scott Perry, an associate professor of history; and Sandra Stone, a professor in the Department of Social Sciences and assistant dean for graduate studies — and Kenneth Wong of Brown University and Gloria Brown Marshall of the City University of New York. 

“Just as an archer assembles a talented quiver of arrows, the Florida Center for PAInT is assembling a group of skilled individuals prepared to make a significant impact,” said Davis-Cotton.

Through BOWS, classroom teachers will develop skills in one or more artistic disciplines, including the performing arts, visual arts and literary arts, thereby enabling them to empower their own students to demonstrate an understanding of American history, government, civics and geography through art. 

USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook said the program will equip educators with essential tools and resources, enabling students to enhance their civic literacy skills and deepen their understanding of the Constitution and how government works through arts integrated projects.  

“The project will implement a coordinated approach to promoting civics literacy, writing, arts and storytelling and ensure students receive a well-rounded education,” said Brett Kemker, the regional vice chancellor and vice provost for academic affairs and student success. 

Learn more about the Florida Center for PAInT.

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