Spreading the Word

Teaching a subject through a new art form feels less daunting after not only seeing a successful idea modeled in a classroom setting, but actually participating in the learning as a student. At Community Arts: Connecting Neighborhoods and Classrooms, the 13th Annual Arts Integration Conference at UMBC, academic teachers were given the opportunity to see and do in a number of classrooms on campus.

Workshop participants learned, for example, the art storytelling with Laura Wexler of  The Stoop Storytelling Series, how to connect ELA and STEAM with designing and building kinetic sculptures with FutureMakers, and ways to integrate theatre standards with language arts standards.

Participants in one class learned how to teach mathematics through wring poetry. Teachers of grade levels ranging from Pre-K through adult learners convened to learn from North County High School (NCHS) Algebra teacher Ashley Russell and Young Audiences roster artist and spoken word poet Femi the Drifish. Their workshop Right On, Then Say Word: Poetic Mathematics was developed through a lesson they have been successfully co-teaching since the 2017-18 school year.

The pair shared their collective experience working with students and showed examples of student work and performances. Femi (his students address him as Mr. Fish) gave the teachers a small taste of his signature style and shared other arts-integrated lessons he’s taught over the years, encouraging them to think about the intersection of language and math in word problems and popular mnemonic devices like PEMDAS (Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally).

At the end of the hour, the teachers had not only enjoyed their time, they learned to create, revise, and perform their own spoken word poetry using mathematical terms. They felt confident that they could use poetry to teach material in their own classrooms. And their students will most certainly enjoy the challenge, pride, creative thinking, and accomplishment that comes from learning through this art form.

You can read more about their partnership in the classroom and how students learn Algebra through the practice of writing and performing slam poetry here.

In 2017, North County High School Math Department Chair Amy Goodman began working to bring arts integration to all of the school’s 9th grade Algebra 1 classes. Thanks to the Arts Empowered Minds Initiative, these students have studied with a variety of professional teaching artists. In addition to Femi the DriFish, Algebra 1 students have worked with TAHIRA, Skher Brown, and Kevin MartinSince beginning this effort, the school’s Algebra I PARCC scores have shown double-digit gains (not to mention, students nurtured their creative sides exploring storytelling, learning to play steel drums, expressing themselves through poetry, and practicing the art of Capoeira Angola).

Study Shows YA’s Summer Arts & Learning Academy Exceeds Expectations in Supporting Academic and Social-Emotional Growth

Students in free arts-integrated program for City Schools realize growth in math, reading, writing, and social-emotional learning – especially for those behind academically.

BALTIMORE, (February 18, 2019) – A new study shows that students who participate in Baltimore City Public Schools’ Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA), operated by Young Audiences, realize positive academic growth and improved social-emotional skills. The research indicates that when compared to the rest of the students in the program, students with special needs saw significantly more growth in writing and in some social emotional domains. Similarly, students that started the summer program behind in math saw significantly more growth over the summer than their peers who began the program on grade level.

The 2018 Summer Arts & Learning Academy, a free five week arts integration program for Baltimore City Schools students, was held from July 9 to August 10 at eight sites across Baltimore City. Through hands-on activities co-taught by professional artists and classroom teachers, nearly 2,200 PreK-5th grade students engaged in painting, songwriting, poetry, dance, music, photography, playwriting, filmmaking while learning math and literacy.

SALA students’ test scores at the beginning and end of the program were analyzed by WolfBrown, a national leader in research on arts education and children’s academic, social, and emotional development. WolfBrown’s analyses revealed increases in students’ math, reading comprehension and writing scores that were not only statistically significant, but large. On average, students’ math scores increased by 15 percentage points, their reading comprehension scores increased by 11 percentage points, and their writing scores increased by 14 to 16 percentage points.

Of particular interest in the study was the growth seen among students who were behind academically or who were at risk of falling behind. Students further behind in math at the beginning of SALA showed the largest growth in math – their test scores grew nearly 1.5 times the rate of their peers. Similar results were observed among students with IEPs. An IEP is an individualized educational plan given to students who demonstrate at least one of 13 special factors, all of which are considered to impede learning. Students with IEPs out-paced their peers in writing content score-growth by nearly 1.24 times. Students with IEPs also showed growth in self control as reported by parents.

Dr. Sonja Santelises, Baltimore City Schools CEO, said,

“We believe in educating the whole child and this summer program does just that. We are thrilled that this investment is resulting in student gains in literacy and math. Just as important, this program gives young people an opportunity to learn about and express themselves through different art forms, which ultimately strengthens empathy and other social-emotional skills in our young people.”

The Baltimore City Schools Office of Achievement and Accountability conducted its own evaluation of the program, comparing scores from end-of-academic-year standardized assessments (iReady and DIBELS) to the beginning of the year in order to measure summer learning loss and the impact of SALA in mitigating that loss. In three of the four comparisons, SALA students program showed lower rates of summer learning loss than students who were not in a summer program.

“Young Audiences’ evaluation contributes to the body of national research showing that when children have sustained opportunities to learn in and through the arts, they have greater rates of academic success,” said Stacie Sanders Evans, Young Audiences President & CEO.

“The Every Student Succeeds Act, the law that governs US public education policy, calls for greater attention on the whole child and specifically social-emotional learning, while requiring schools to adopt evidence-based practices. We hope this evidence will lead more Maryland schools to consider the arts as a vehicle for building student empathy and other life skills such as cooperation and self-management.”

As a result of the program’s continued success, Baltimore City Schools and Young Audiences will expand SALA in 2019 to Pre-K, reaching more than 230 of our City’s youngest learners across all 8 sites.

Download the full WolfBrown evaluation

Young Audiences Arts for Learning Maryland

About Young Audiences/Arts for Learning
Started in Baltimore in 1950, Young Audiences is the nation’s largest arts-in- education provider. As the Maryland affiliate, Young Audiences/Arts for Learning (YA) is devoted to enriching the lives and education of Maryland’s youth through educational and culturally diverse arts programs. Through Young Audiences, professional artists from all disciplines partner with leaders and schools for nearly 10,000 hands on arts learning experiences that reach more than 190,000 Maryland students. Young Audiences envisions a Maryland where the arts are valued for their capacity to transform lives, and where every student is immersed in opportunities to imagine, to create, and to realize their full potential.