It takes a village

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On a Monday afternoon in late June, students filled the Goodnow Community Center for the Summer Showcase, a vibrant display of visual and performing arts. The art shown was created by students, families, and community members through programs with Young Audiences teaching artists. Young Audiences has partnered with Goodnow since 2008 to bring a combination of arts assembly and residency programs to students attending the spring afterschool and summer programs at the center, which are made possible through generous funding from the Macht Fund of THE ASSOCIATED.

“We’re very fortunate that we have been able to have Young Audiences work with the Goodnow Community Center for the past six years,” said Gloria Jenkins, director of the center. “Our children have grown through their help.”

Those who stopped by the Summer Showcase got a taste of Young Audiences’ programs immediately when walking through the door, as students’ photographs taken with artist Christina Delgado were displayed by the entrance. These stunning images varied from full portraits to up-close snapshots.

First to perform at the showcase was Young Audiences roster ensemble Illstyle and Peace Productions, a dance company whose work focuses on the movement and spirit of Hip Hop. In her introduction for the group, Gloria noted, “When we’re planning events, the students always remind me to ‘get those boys that dance.’”

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See more photos from the showcase here!

Illstyle and Peace Productions’ performance, titled NO Bullying, STOP Bullying: Let’s Be Friends, incorporated contemporary and old school dance moves with the positive message of acceptance. Throughout the show, cheers could be heard from all corners of the packed room. The program’s message was clear: when asked why they shouldn’t bully others, students passionately replied that they should treat others the way they want to be treated.

Acting as a backdrop for Illstyle and Peace Productions’ performance was a mural students created with the help of Young Audiences visual artist Danyett Tucker. “We came together and thought of a positive message we wanted to share with the community,” Danyett explained. The students decided on a quote from Harriet Tubman about following your dreams:

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.

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“We’re hoping that it will be used in performances for years to come,” said Danyett of the final product.

Coming together as a village and a community was the theme of the afternoon. It was especially prevalent during the unveiling of the “Mural Without Borders” artwork adorning the Goodnow Community Center’s facade. A sixth-month-long project, the work was created by members of the community with ceramic artist Herb Massie. It depicts the community’s past and present.

“The mural involved different aspects of the community to help put it together,” Rev. Kevin Bacon, Baltimore City Fire Dept. Chaplain said. “Police officers, the church, and schools all got involved.”

Retired Baltimore City Police Officer Craig Singleterry added, “People always say it takes a village. Well, this is our village.”

Though the project brought together all members of the community, it seemed to especially impact students. Rita Crews, a teacher at Hazelwood Elementary who helped students with the mural, shared, “The students were always eager to come in, even on Saturdays. They were the ones reminding me that we had to get to work.”

Barbara Combs, artist and art educator, believes that this interest in art has a practical application, noting that there “isn’t any career that art doesn’t touch.”

For Officer Singleterry, it’s also about showing students that they can do more. “Programs like these give students a new outlook on what they can do, from poetry to dance to music,” he said. “Young Audiences has brought more into their view.”

See more photos from the showcase here!

Summer learning comes to a close

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See photos from the Young Audiences arts-integrated summer learning site!

The summer can be a time for fun in the sun with family and friends, but for many students across the country, it is a time of uncertainty. Without school, many at-risk students are left without adequate supervision, access to regular, healthy meals, and opportunities to participate in engaging and constructive activities. On average, all children can lose approximately two months of learning from the previous school year during the summer months without engaging education activities, and for low-income students, the loss is even greater. More than half of the achievement gap between low-income students and their more affluent peers can be attributed to the unequal access to summer learning opportunities.

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For five weeks this summer, Young Audiences again partnered with Baltimore City Public Schools to combat summer learning loss through a free math- and science-focused summer camp opportunity for Baltimore City middle school students. Young Audiences artists provided arts enrichment activities at seven Baltimore City 22nd Century Pioneers Summer Camp sites. In addition, for the first time, Young Audiences managed an eighth completely arts-integrated camp site at Edmondson Westside High School.

At the Young Audiences camp, morning math and science classes were co-taught by Baltimore City teachers and Young Audiences artists, who explored STEM subjects through the arts. Students had a choice in the art form they focused on during afternoon enrichment classes, including dance, photography, illustration and mural painting, improvisational theatre, Hip Hop, steel drum, or VEX robotics. The camp also included field trips, giving students the chance to apply their knowledge outside of the classroom.

The program was a learning opportunity for participating teachers as well, some of whom were new to arts integration as a teaching practice. Co-teaching with Young Audiences artists gave teachers the opportunity to try out a different way to approach each lesson, growing their knowledge of the arts and the natural connections that exist between core subjects and the arts.

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In a recent survey of 500 U.S. teachers, 66 percent said it takes at least three to four weeks to re-teach content from the previous school year to get their students up to speed at the start of each new school year. At Edmondson Westside, the arts made learning fun and students both stayed intellectually engaged so they would not fall behind in their classes this coming school year, and also discovered a new way of learning through the arts. Students had the opportunity to develop their knowledge in math and science in a hands-on way, learning how the length of sound waves relates to the pitch of each note on a steel drum, or how a photographer or illustrator uses mathematical ratios to compose a piece. Students learned about themselves as they tried new things; took risks during classroom activities; and showcased what they had learned for others.

Read more about the Young Audiences arts-integrated summer learning site and see photos from this summer here.

Leaping headfirst into arts integration

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By Grace Galarpe, Baltimore City Public School teacher

When I got involved in the Young Audiences and Baltimore City Public Schools 22nd Century Pioneers Arts-Based Summer Camp, I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place at first. Even though I’ve seen arts integration in the news, this summer was my first time really working with it. It was my first time working with Young Audiences, too, so when they told me that this program was all about arts integration, I was curious to learn more.

As a high school teacher, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with other core subject teachers before, but a collaboration with an artist? This was my first time and the idea interested me. In the past, I’ve used the arts in my classroom in the sense that we would sometimes draw or dance or sing. If I did incorporate the arts, it was separate. These activities would be after instruction or after school. The program this summer, where arts integration happened within the instruction, used a completely different method.

I was paired with Valerie Branch, a dancer. Before Valerie and I started teaching, we did lesson planning. Looking back, we consider this the biggest factor in our success because the planning helped us gain a greater understanding of how we would integrate the arts into our lessons.

I was very fortunate because both of us took the program very seriously. We would do thorough planning and would really talk about what was going to happen the next day and the next. Everything that Valerie and I accomplished this summer was possible because we had time to plan together. I wasn’t just going into a classroom where I would do everything by myself; it was a partnership.

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See more photos from the Young Audiences arts-integrated summer learning site!

Our lessons weren’t always perfect, but since the teacher and the artist planned together, we could always reflect and revise–not just one of us, but both of us. We helped and respected each other, and as the summer went by, we became very comfortable with one another. When Valerie and I would sit down together, she made me feel confident about where the arts would come in and how we would make it possible. She made me feel more comfortable with her art form, too, and because of this, I could easily explain the elements of dance to students.

This summer, I realized that a dance activity can be incorporated with a science activity using the same concepts and vocabulary. That was amazing to me. At first, I wondered, “How will my students benefit from this collaboration and integration of the arts?” I now feel that arts integration gives students the chance to learn at a different level because we are able to touch multiple intelligences. I believe that our students achieved a deeper understanding of the science concepts and vocabulary that we taught them due to the integration of the arts into our teaching. They were able to apply what they had learned, not only through science but through dance, too.

Sometimes during the science instruction, students would ask: “Why do we need to learn this?” I would respond that they needed to know the terms and concepts so that we could apply them to our next dance choreography, and then they would get excited. When Valerie would talk about the elements of dance at the same time as the science, the students would be able to perform a dance choreography based on something related to science, such as pollution. That was a really wonderful outcome.

I can now see that if arts integration is a regular part of a classroom, it helps increase academic achievement and positive intervention regarding behavioral problems. I could tell that the arts were a huge help in attendance in our classroom, too, and I was so happy that the students looked forward to our class every day.

The arts also helped create responsibility. For example, Valerie and I decided that we needed to do something that would make the students understand that they had an obligation in the classroom. As a part of our teaching, we did an activity we called “Human Mirror,” which incorporates dance movements that develop a sense of responsibility. It requires listening, following directions correctly, being observant, and an understanding of what it means to be a leader and a follower. This was a great success for our class. I could sense that the students also gained respect for both of us. They called both me and Valerie artists, which surprised me. I was like, “Oh wow, I’m an artist!”

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If ever given the chance, I would tell teachers who haven’t used arts integration not to be afraid of co-teaching with an artist. If there were an opportunity for me to be involved in another arts integration program, I would gladly do it. I’ve realized that in programs like this, the artist and teacher can become more than just teachers. I believe that they can do more than just share concepts or explain the academic side of things: they can inspire students’ lives.

Read more about the Young Audiences 22nd Century Pioneers Arts-Based Summer Camp site and see photos here.

How do we make learning fun?

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By Chanel Traboldt, Third Grade Teacher at Harford Heights Elementary and Young Audiences Public Programs Summer Intern

Two middle school girls sit in the back of the classroom. One of them is sneaking a look at her cell phone under her desk; the other is braiding her hair. They are in a morning class during the first week of the Young Audiences and Baltimore City Public Schools 22nd Century Pioneers Arts-Based Summer Camp, and neither girl is looking at the front of the room or listening as the teacher, Ms. Moss, begins a math lesson on integers.

For a school teacher, like me, this can be the scene of many early mornings. The question you ask yourself each time is: “How do I better engage my students in their learning?” This often can seem like an impossible task. We know that if you make learning fun, students will want to learn. As an educator, there is an urgency to fight the achievement gap and prepare your students with the skills needed to be college and career ready. But now the tricky part: how do we make learning fun?

Young Audiences again partnered with Baltimore City Public Schools to solve this dilemma in July. In addition to providing arts enrichment activities at seven summer learning sites in Baltimore City, Young Audiences and City Schools created the first-ever completely arts-integrated summer learning site at Edmondson Westside High School. All eight sites were a part of the 22nd Century Pioneers Summer Camp, which is a free program for Baltimore City Public School middle school students.

Back in the classroom at the Young Audiences arts-integrated camp site something surprising happens. Ms. Moss continues her math lesson by projecting photographs students took the previous day while working with Young Audiences photographer Christina Delgado. The two girls stop what they were doing and look up. Ms. Moss asks the group what elements of photography are being used in each image and how these elements relate to what they are learning about integers. The girls raise their hands to join the conversation.

See more photos from the Young Audiences arts-integrated summer learning site!

During my time at Young Audiences’ site, I saw that teachers and artists had found a solution to many teachers’ student engagement woes. Integrating the arts into daily lesson plans allowed students to create, explore, express, have fun, and most importantly, to learn.

At the Young Audiences camp, nearly 150 students explored math and science concepts through the arts in classes and arts enrichment activities led by Baltimore City teachers and Young Audiences artists during the five-week program. Students chose the art form they would focus on during afternoon enrichment sessions, with choices including dance, photography, illustration and mural painting, theatre, Hip Hop, steel drums, and VEX robotics.

In another class, I saw a group of chatty sixth-graders sitting in the corner go completely silent to listen to steel drum musician Kevin Martin play musical phrases the class had created using what they had learned about ratios.

An unenthused student turned frustration into joy while drawing blueprints for a cage to carry a wild boar across a lake of alligators in visual artist Danyett Tucker’s eighth-grade math class.

Students, who were at first more focused on their weekend, turned that energy into an intricate dance routine about pollution in dancer Valerie Branch’s class.

As a teacher witnessing these moments of transformation, I am amazed at how easy it is to engage students in learning. The key is to understand that learning and the arts are not separate entities. By combining the two elements and creating arts-integrated educational lessons, students are truly able to learn while having fun.

Read more about the Young Audiences 22nd Century Pioneers Arts-Based Summer Camp site and see photos here.