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Mayfest 2013 at JCSU

Festival Links CMS Families & JCSU Community Through Fun, Games and Applied Research

May 8, 2013, Charlotte, NC – Despite the wind and drizzle on Saturday, CMS students and families gathered on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) for MayFest, a day of family fun on May 4th. The day had a multi-faceted purpose; in addition to the family fun and games, Johnson C. Smith University’s Smith Institute for Applied Research faculty and students studied what factors contribute to increased parental engagement, and the connection between learning and play.

Students and parent play with large dice. Researchers studied the impact of parent-student learning through play. Photo: Jeff Cravotta

Researchers studied the impact of parent-student learning through play. Photo: Jeff Cravotta

The event was a highlight of the Smith Institute and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) partnership to learn more parental engagement. CMS families enjoyed free food, exhibits, and prizes. A traditional Mexican dance performance, story time, intergenerational aerobics, and resources for caregivers to help their students with their studies were also available. Researchers used original barcode scanning technology. JCSU students developed the proprietary barcode program to capture research data from the event.


At the finger painting station, Cynthia Cole, a JCSU faculty researcher who developed the exhibit was in exploration mode. Her idea is that increasing parental engagement could be achieved through learning as play. She will use her insights about the progression of parents’ behavior to inform her research over the summer.

JCSU researcher and art professor Cynthia Cole with parents and students at Mayfest 2013.

JCSU researcher and art professor Cynthia Cole with parents and students at Mayfest 2013. Photo: Jeff Cravotta

“Initially, [caregivers] were hesitant to allow their children to finger paint, said Cole. “I put the brushes out but the kids still wanted to get their hands in the paint. Half-way through, parents started coming over and instead of watching their children, they began to use brushes [to paint]. Then, the children went away, and the parents started painting- first with brushes. Parents went from controlling their children to visibly softening and looking like young children the longer they painted. At the end, we had to say ‘alright, it’s time to go’ to people who were still painting. It was fascinating for me to see.”

Johnson C. Smith University President Ronald L. Carter’s vision for Smith Institute is to conduct applied research in the Northwest Corridor. The idea behind Smith Institute researching Parental Engagement grew out of a conversation between Dr. Carter and CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison.

This was followed by several months of planning between the CMS Title I and Community Outreach Team, led by Assistant Superintendent LaTarzja Henry, and Carlenia Ivory of both CMS and the JCSU Indaba. The group was convened by Dr. Diane Bowles, Vice President for Government Sponsored Programs and Executive Director of Smith Institute for Applied Research and the initial condition research designed by Manager of Smith Institute, Connie Van Brunt.

The event took place as part of JCSU’s annual week-long Bullfest event, which draws the University crowd and is named for its mascot. Despite the cold weather, the wind and the rain, Saturday proved to be a fun day for families and the college community, alike.


Smith Institute for Applied Research is funded by the United States Department of Education through the Title III Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) of 2009.


Johnson C. Smith University is Charlotte’s Premier Independent Urban University. It is recognized as one of the nation’s 100+ Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).


Research Work Group



Dr. DianeBowlesExecutive Director, Smith InstituteVice President, Government Sponsored Programs

Johnson C. Smith University

LaTarzjaHenryAssistant Superintendent for CommunityPartnerships and Family Engagement

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

CarleniaIvoryFamily and Community Service, CMSCharlotte-Mecklenburg Schools


CMS Staff

YvetteSmithDirector, Secondary Title ICharlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
RubyHoustonCommunity Relations and OutreachCharlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Research Experts

Dr. RuthGreeneProfessor, PsychologyJohnson C. Smith University


CynthiaColeProfessor, Visual and Performing ArtsJohnson C. Smith University


Dr.VanessaFiggersAssistant Professor, MathematicsJohnson C. Smith University


Dr. TomPriestAssociate Professor, SociologyJohnson C. Smith University


Dr. AnitaBledsoe-GardnerProfessor, Social SciencesJohnson C. Smith University


Connie VanBruntApplied Research CoordinatorManager, Smith Institute

Johnson C. Smith University

Dr. KatrinaBledsoeResearch Scientist/Senior Evaluation SpecialistEducation Development Center, Inc.    


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For more information, please contact Keisha Talbot Johnson

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