The Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham Announces The Smart Directory: A New Tool for Teachers

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Starting this week, teachers in and around Jefferson County will have a new tool to help them find ideas and inspirations for their classrooms. After a great deal of research and development, the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham is proud to unveil The Smart Directory. This online portal is a free, easy-to-use tool designed specifically for K-12 teachers and will serve as a central hub for complete information about fieldtrips, in-class presentations, and other resources in Jefferson and surrounding counties.

The Smart Directory is designed for public, private and home schoolteachers seeking creative ways to help students achieve content standards of the Alabama Course of Study. Developed with substantial input from teachers themselves, the Directory provides detailed information about educational offerings from local organizations and individuals. Teachers can use the directory to search for in-school programs or field trips as well as refine their searches by geographic location, grade, and subject. Users can also request reservations directly through the reservation tool without ever leaving the site. The Smart Directory can be accessed via the Cultural Alliance's http://www.activeculture.info website, which boasts a comprehensive events calendar and online cultural marketplace for Greater Birmingham in addition to the newly unveiled educational programming directory.

Buddy Palmer, President and CEO of the Cultural Alliance, said, "The Smart Directory is a direct response to the Cultural Master Plan for the Greater Birmingham region, which strongly indicated the need for expanding coordinated cultural education opportunities for our young people. The Smart Directory takes the time and resource-consuming task of marketing, planning and coordinating enrichment activities and simplifies the process for both teachers and programmers."

While The Smart Directory primarily focuses on arts and cultural offerings from providers in Jefferson County and the surrounding counties, the directory includes other educational offerings for students. Bonner Wagnon, Program Director of The Cultural Alliance, said, "To ensure the Smart Directory is truly a one-stop listing of local programs for students, we continue to welcome entries from a broad range of enrichment and educational programs." Examples include programs by the Jones Valley Urban Farm, Southern Environmental Center, Alabama Power Company and the Christenberry Planetarium at Samford University.

On the first day of the launch, we received a email message from private school teacher, Mandy Deter of Red Mountain Community School. "Thank you for this great site. It is very user friendly and full of information. I have already planned much of our school calendar from one source. I am so very grateful.

A growing body of research suggests that children's overall academic performance improves through arts and cultural education, which bolsters critical thinking, creative problem solving and effective communication skills.

According to the National School Boards Association and Americans for the Arts, a non-profit organization for advancing the arts in America, children who receive this integrated educational approach are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement as opposed to their peers who do not have arts and cultural programming integrated into their curriculums. Those who do are also three times more likely to be elected to a class office within their schools, four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair, three times more likely to win an award for school attendance and four times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem. Other studies indicate that children who receive a consistent dose of arts and cultural educational programming are less likely to drop out of school, are more tolerant and have improved self-confidence.

In addition to being a useful resource, teachers have the opportunity to win free arts and cultural activity offerings by simply registering on The Smart Directory website. The "20 Prizes in 20 Weeks" promotion officially kicked off in synch with the service's launch on August 1. Each week a randomly selected teacher will win an arts or cultural activity for his or her students as well as a $25 gift certificate to Books-A-Million, Office Depot or the Alabama Art Supply. The first winner will be drawn on August 7. Teachers can register once a day until December 17 and are urged to visit for more information including the promotion's rules and regulations and a detailed list of prizes.

The rollout of The Smart Directory focuses on Jefferson County and will expand to surrounding counties over the next 12-18 months. And as of this release, The Smart Directory offers nearly 200 listings for educational programming with many additional offerings to come.

The Smart Directory was made possible with the support of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Alabama State Council of the Arts, Vulcan Materials and the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham.

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Michael Bell
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