Students at Van Buren High School Freshman Academy will benefit this year from the research and lesson plans developed by Laura Burnett through the third year of the Arkansas Declaration of Learning program.

Burnett, a visual arts and journalism teacher for ninth graders, was one of 26 educators who participated in the third year of this prestigious program, which uses historic art and objects from state and national museums and libraries to develop innovative lesson plans centered around civic engagement.

Because of Burnett’s dedication to the program during the 2017-18 school year, she was recognized by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Arkansas Department of Education on June 29 at the Clinton Presidential Center.

“Discussing the objects and lives of people from history brought them to life and made a connection to things happening today for our students,” Burnett said. “The ADOL civic engagement project opened up a discussion about some issues that would otherwise not get talked about.”

“I am proud of the Arkansas educators who have dedicated their time and expertise to making the Arkansas Declaration of Learning initiative a success,” Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner Johnny Key said. “Arkansas is the first state in the country to implement this national program, and through our partnerships with other organizations, we have enhanced student learning by providing access to historical objects that are rich in history. Together we are transforming Arkansas to lead the nation in student-focused education.”

The Declaration of Learning program was formed in 2013 as part of an inter-agency educational initiative that began when representatives from 13 national organizations signed the Declaration of Learning. This declaration pledged that these organizations would work with state and local partners to create learning tools for educators and students in middle and secondary education.

Arkansas is the first state to participate in the program. Program partners are the Arkansas Department of Education, Clinton Foundation, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Central Arkansas Library System’s Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, and the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms.

Over the last three years, partners have collaborated with Arkansas educators and school librarians who teach art, English language arts, and social studies for grades six through 12. To date, more than 6,000 Arkansas students have participated in classroom lessons and civic engagement projects developed through the program. Partners are currently working on developing a website that will allow educators across the nation to have access to the lesson plans created by Arkansas teachers.

“This program is a great learning experience for teachers and students,” said Cassandra Barnett, the ADE program advisor for school libraries. “Teachers who participate receive extensive training and support from history and art experts throughout the development of the lesson plans. Because of the hard work of these teachers, students have the opportunity to explore real world issues using art and historic objects. We want our students to see that the past can inform our present, and through civic engagement, they can impact our future.”

The program recently began its fourth year, with applications for the fifth year scheduled to open in January 2019. To learn more about the program, and see a list of past participants, visit