Meet our new artists: Noa Baum

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During the last two years, our roster has grown in size to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms. From slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters, these new artists are undeniably unique.

To introduce audiences to our new artists, we’ll be posting interviews with those who recently joined our roster, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences with Young Audiences so far.

Israeli-born Noa Baum, who joined the Young Audiences roster in 2013, is an internationally acclaimed storyteller who uses mesmerizing voices, impeccable timing, and warm authenticity to captivate audiences and confront important topics. Read on to learn how she got involved in storytelling and why she believes it’s so essential.

What is your background as an artist?

I was an actress in Israel at the Khan Theatre, a repertory theatre in Jerusalem. I studied acting at Tel Aviv University, studied with Uta Hagan, and received my Master’s from New York University in Educational Theatre. I started as an actress, but I wanted more. There’s actually a story about why I became a storyteller: I didn’t get an acting part I wanted, so to make ends meet, I got a job doing a story hour with kids in Tel Aviv. The way that the children reacted there was very powerful, and I wanted to learn more about the power of drama and story.

How did you hear about Young Audiences?

I moved to the east coast after living in Israel, and I’ve worked in the area ever since. I heard about Young Audiences when I arrived, and I auditioned and was accepted onto the roster.

What made you decide to become a Young Audiences roster artist?

I really like what Young Audiences does for artists. As an artist, it’s hard to market yourself to the schools by yourself. Working in schools is only part of what I do—I do programs for adults as well—so I wanted someone to take care of the marketing for me because it’s a lot of work. Young Audiences is very dedicated. It’s a lot of really good people working and keeping ongoing relationships with the schools and the school districts.

Have you had any programs through Young Audiences yet? What was the most memorable part?

I’ve been really grateful for this year because, as a first year artist, I’ve gotten to work with a lot of schools. The most memorable part has been the flexibility and support of the staff. With Young Audiences, I feel that I have a home and people to support me. As an artist, it feels really good to know that I can focus on my art because I have people taking care of the logistics.

Why do you believe art is important for every student to have access to?

I think art offers a holistic engagement of the brain, the heart, the body, and the whole self. As humans, art is the way we make meaning of who we are, why we’re here, and what this world is made of. Art has never been separate in the development of humanity, but unfortunately, we live in a society where we’ve started separating it. Art has become this extra thing, something that can be cut from the budget because it’s not as important. I don’t think it’s something extra. I don’t even think art is a subject as much as it’s a way of being. The more we integrate the arts into the subjects that we teach, the more we help the students learn and become who they are.

What does your art form in particular teach students?

Our brain processes information through stories. It’s how we remember and how we learn. Storytelling is the best teaching tool that I know—all of the great teachers and leaders of the world have been great storytellers. For me, storytelling teaches a lot of things, the most important being connecting with yourself. It’s an art form that asks you to participate and connect with your creative life force.

I think another amazing and powerful thing that storytelling teaches is listening in a deep, authentic, and fun way. From a very young age, we tell children to be quiet and listen. We expect them to be obedient and listen to instructions, but we don’t offer practice that teaches them how. One of the best ways to teach how to listen is to create an experience where listening is supported, such as a storytelling performance. Storytelling helps cultivate listening because you really have to listen to be able to imagine.

Storytelling works on a cognitive level as well. There’s a lot of research showing that if you want kids to be good writers, they have to be exposed to a lot of oral language. Writing and reading are basically connecting signs to things in your brain. The more words you’ve been exposed to orally and the richer the language you have in your head, the faster you can connect it to words on paper. If you’re looking at words and you don’t know what they mean or have no experience with them, reading and writing will always be a struggle. But if you know what “blossom” means, for example, and if you’ve heard it many times, you can connect the letters to the meaning faster.

Storytelling helps us emotionally connect the mind and heart. You may not remember all the intricacies of a story, but you’ll remember how you felt when you heard it, and sometimes, that can be lifesaving.

Learn more about the Noa’s offerings through Young Audiences here.

Keep an eye out for more interviews featuring our newest roster artists! See past new artist interviews here.

Training that transforms artists and teachers

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In a recent blog post for the Washington Post, Alvin Crawford, CEO of Knowledge Delivery Systems, addresses fundamental issues with the current professional development offerings for educators. He cites a 2009 report which found that “when asked about their experience in professional development, ‘most teachers reported that it was totally useless.’” The substantial financial investment the U.S. makes in teacher development ($2.5 billion in 2012 according to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan) is not meeting the needs of many teachers, or in turn, students.

The Teaching Artist Institute (TAI), did not set out to be a teacher professional development program, but as the program starts its eighth year this fall, it is clear that it is succeeding where many traditional professional development workshops are not. TAI also has gained attention for how it provides teachers with creative and natural tools for implementing Maryland’s Common Core College and Career-Ready Standards through the arts.

TAI is a statewide program made possible through the partnership of the Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance, the Maryland State Arts Council, and Young Audiences/Arts for Learning. It was founded to train teaching artists to create curriculum-aligned arts programs for classrooms. Since its start in 2007, the program has graduated more than 110 artists and has repositioned the role of artists in education in Maryland. Teaching artists were once perceived as performers—able to entertain, and perhaps share another culture with students—but they were a distraction from the school day, a break from the classroom. Through TAI, artists have demonstrated the value they bring to the classroom as educators.

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See more photos from the 2014-2015 TAI Seminar here!

TAI-trained artists are critical partners to teachers of any subject, using their art form to creatively address the ever-changing curriculum and standards to which teachers are held accountable. TAI fosters partnerships between teaching artists and teachers, requiring artists to collaboratively plan and teach with an assigned teacher. Through this collaboration, teachers experience the gifts a teaching artist brings to the classroom and learn how the arts can be used to engage children in learning. While TAI was not created for teachers, teachers report it improves their own practice of arts integration and reinvigorates their passion for teaching.

In his post, Mr. Crawford shares what teacher professional development needs to entail to be effective for teachers and to positively impact student achievement:

Teacher development studies…have shown over and over again that simply exposing a teacher to a new concept or skill has little to no classroom impact because most professional development opportunities for educators are still lecture style – telling, showing, and explaining how something can be done.

And when the “learning” is finished, we push teachers back into the choppy waters of their classrooms without so much as a life preserver; they’re given very little or ineffective ongoing support from their district.

To be transformative, strategic professional development needs to be 50 hours or more plus less formal and ongoing interaction and peer engagement to refine skills and model successes. It must also be tailored by subject, grade level and type of student.

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By developing an effective training program for artists, TAI has also grown to offer a professional development opportunity for teachers which fits Mr. Crawford’s definition of “transformative.” The 70-hour TAI Seminar begins with a three-day workshop, which includes sessions led by master teaching artists and opportunities for participants to develop and share their knowledge in small groups. Pairs of artists and teachers then work independently during the course of several months to co-create an arts residency program which integrates the artist’s expertise with the curriculum and to test and refine their new program by piloting it with students in the teacher’s classroom.

While TAI was not designed to address the teaching practice of educators, it continues to build a community of impassioned artists and teachers who want to work together to transform teaching and learning through the arts.

Learn more about the TAI program and see photos from the 2014-2015 TAI Seminar. Listen and read recent reporting by WYPR, Maryland’s public radio station, on how TAI teacher and artist participants are creatively addressing Common Core through the arts: Meshing Common Core and Arts Standards and Arts and Common Core—a Natural Fit.

Opportunity Schools are a spot of hope

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Much research has suggested that students from low-income families often struggle in school compared to their more affluent peers. However, the Maryland Campaign for Achievement Now (MarylandCAN) published a report in April that seems to dispel this belief. After studying schools throughout Baltimore City, MarylandCAN found that eight public schools with large populations of low-income students are doing the unthinkable: repeatedly outperforming overall state proficiency rates. Young Audiences is a proud partner to seven of the eight schools featured in the report that believe, as we do, that the arts are a valuable tool in engaging students in learning across all subjects.

The highlighted schools are Cecil Elementary, The Empowerment Academy, Hamilton Elementary/Middle, Liberty Elementary, Medfield Heights Elementary, The Mount Washington School, Thomas Johnson Elementary/Middle, and Tunbridge Public Charter School.

Some of the city and state’s highest concentrations of students from low-income households attend these schools; however, for the past two years, at least half of the tested grades have performed above the state proficiency rates on the Maryland School Assessment. The report names these schools “Opportunity Schools,” arguing that they are “beacons to prove what is possible in Baltimore.”

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Read the full report here

What exactly do these schools have that allows them to break the link between poverty and lower academic achievement? MarylandCAN writes that it comes down to effective leadership. This leadership often comes in the form of a strong principal, the report notes, pointing to inspiring leaders such as Joe Manko, principal of Liberty Elementary–also a standout partner of Young Audiences.

Congratulations to all the Opportunity Schools on their success. It’s because of your determination that the educational opportunity gap may finally come to a close.

Meet our new artists: Baltimore Improv Group

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During the last two years, our roster has grown in size to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms. From slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters, these new artists are undeniably unique.

To introduce audiences to our new artists, we’ll be posting interviews with those who recently joined our roster, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences with Young Audiences so far.

The Baltimore Improv Group is a talented ensemble that came aboard our roster in 2013, and their performances and residencies never fail to evoke laughter and learning. Read on to find out why they became a Young Audiences roster artist, what they learned through our Teaching Artist Institute, and why they believe improv works so well in the classroom.

What is your background as an artist?

​The Baltimore Improv Group is celebrating its 10th year as a theatre company in Baltimore. We started small but have grown close to 60 performers, and we perform 90+ shows a year, including our annual Baltimore Improv Festival. We also teach classes to adults, teens, and children. Our performers have studied and trained all across the country, and we continue to host the best improvisers in Baltimore. ​

How did you hear about Young Audiences?

​Our Education Director, Bridget Cavaiola, worked with Young Audiences for years in her position as the Residential Life Director for the Upper Chesapeake Summer Center for the Arts. The center would bring in Young Audiences artists to perform for its campers. She knew it would be a perfect fit for BIG and made the suggestion that we audition.

What made you decide to become a Young Audiences roster artist?

​Improv is such a natural fit with children. It encourages risk taking, creativity, and collaboration. We have hosted our own kids’ shows and classes but knew this would be a perfect match for us. ​

Have you had any programs through Young Audiences yet? What was the most memorable part?

YES! We had more than 10 assemblies at schools this year and our first residency, too! We are looking forward to more in the coming school year. Some of our favorite memories are watching the students come up on stage and perform in front of their peers and receive that amazing confidence boost that comes from taking a risk within a supportive environment! We certainly have traveled Maryland quite extensively, and we will certainly remember the fun trek to Flintstone Elementary School in Allegany County!

Baltimore Improv Group at YA Summer Camp

You recently completed the Teaching Artist Institute Seminar this spring. What was your favorite part of the program? How has that experience changed your approach to a program or your teaching practices?

The Teaching Artist Institute is an amazing opportunity where artists, educators, and staff truly collaborate to help process, define, and designate the importance of art in the classroom. We loved the guided lessons, hands-on experience, and being around such amazing, talented individuals. We felt that this experience helped to shine a new light on our own experiences as a teaching artist.

What does your art form in particular teach students?

​Improv teaches a lot! Listening skills, taking risks, collaboration, the power of “yes,” learning from failure and mistakes, and much more! ​

Why do you believe it is important for every student to have access to the arts?

​Art is the glue that solidifies education for so many kids. It allows them to access their own creativity and instills a level of respect and ownership over a child’s education.

Learn more about the Baltimore Improv Group’s offerings through Young Audiences here.

Keep an eye out for more interviews featuring our newest roster artists!