Program helps students find their PLACE
Amber Slonski and Mike Schmalenberg participated in PLACE, a unique learning opportunity through the Arts Education Program. -Photo by U of R Photography Dep't

University of Regina students are growing as professionals and learning the value of community involvement all thanks to a unique program and partnership with Melville elementary schools.

The program is called Professional Learning as Community Experience (PLACE) and it allows students in the Arts Education Program in the Faculty of Education to create learning opportunities for children in grades one through six. Together with professors Norman Yakel and Ann Kipling Brown, arts education students work with visual artists, musicians, writers and cultural workers in Melville, and with teachers at Davison and Miller schools in that city, to plan lessons for elementary school students.

"It's a great opportunity for our students. They get to teach and start to think of themselves as professionals in the field," says Yakel.

Students Amber Slonski and Mike Schmalenberg agree. "It was our first professional experience teaching a group of students," says Slonski, who received a degree in media production from the U of R in 2006 before returning to pursue the Arts Education Program. "It provided us with first-hand experience and practical learning."

Schmalenberg, a fourth-year student in the program, is equally positive about the experience. "Melville is such a welcoming community - we had the chance to take risks and to make mistakes and learn from them," he says.

While the program benefits U of R students, Yakel says PLACE is also a community program. "The elementary school students enjoy it; the community artists have the opportunity to mentor students; and the elementary school teachers have the opportunity to act in supervisory roles as they help our students create and plan valuable lessons."

"The program has been so successful over the past four years that it was extended in 2009 to include a placement, which is a pre-internship program that allows education students to work as teachers in a classroom setting," explains Kipling Brown. Traditionally a placement takes place during the fall semester and students work one day a week in an elementary school in Regina. This year, the students did a five-day placement at the two Melville schools.