What if we invested in artists at this time to dream up new ways to teach and reach children?
One of the things I admire about artists is their ability to envision and create without constraint. They inspire me every day to put on my “artist brain” and ask, “What if?” on behalf of young people and their education. This new reality we are operating in has us asking “What if?” often. What if schools remain closed for months? What if a child does not have access to the internet to engage in online learning, and how will that exacerbate the opportunity gap? What if teaching artists, who are primarily independent contractors, are forced to leave their callings for more financial certainty?
In addition to the scary questions, there are also questions that inspire me: What if we used this time to envision new and better ways to close the inspiration gap for young people? And what if we paid artists at this precarious time in their life to dream up new ways to teach and reach children?
Also inspiring me are the 67 donors who have collectively donated more than $14,000 to the Teaching Artist Emergency Fund. This money will be distributed next week to more than 40 artists, who are independent contractors originally contracted to deliver services to public schools around the state that are now closed for another month. In response to my “What if?” question, the YA Board of Directors approved us to draw down $18,500 in organizational reserves to provide innovation grants next week to these same artists.
Why an innovation grant?
In a call last week with our artists, Jamaal “Mr. Root” Collier said, “We create. That is what artists do.” While the circumstances of where and when they create, and how they bring that creativity into a child’s life and education, have changed, they are still artists. This innovation grant is about supporting artists to be the valuable citizens that they are at this important time when we need to “reach and teach” kids in different ways. Artists, like scientists, have the unique ability to imagine new possibilities, the curiosity to experiment, and the courage to try and fail.
So, their charge with this grant? To lift up our students at this time—to breathe joy, creativity, and discovery into their homes. I look forward to sharing the artists’ innovations with you and will pass along examples of their impact on young people.
Now that we know schools will remain closed through most of April, we are paying special attention to the 54 artists who face losing more than $89,000 next month, as well as the tens of thousands of children who could lose access to learning from these amazing artists. Here are five ways we are supporting artists and young people:
- Continuing to provide financial relief by raising money through the Teaching Artist Emergency Fund.
- Drawing down additional reserve funds to provide innovation grants to reach more artists.
- Asking foundations and government agencies to consider relaxing their restrictions on grants to Young Audiences, which will allow us to put artists to work helping kids in a different way.
- Organizing a professional learning community for artists to help them transition quickly to online teaching, and providing them with infrastructure and marketing support.
- Developing our own innovative partnerships with school districts to connect artists with students in ways that focus on addressing the digital divide, and blending academic instruction with moments that nurture emotional well-being and creativity during this stressful time for children and families.
We are about to announce something very exciting…stay tuned!
Stacie Sanders Evans
President & CEO
Young Audiences continues to monitor the news around COVID-19 and is actively following the directions of the Maryland Department of Health, Governor Larry Hogan, State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon, the Maryland State Department of Education, and our partners.
The health and safety of our staff, artists, students, teachers, and their families is a top priority.
Starting Monday, March 16, 2020, Young Audiences will temporarily implement a remote work policy. However, a few staff will be in the office carrying out essential operational activities. Although the physical office will be closed for the bulk of the next two weeks, all staff are available remotely during normal business hours, Monday-Friday, 9 am-5 pm. To get in touch with a specific member of our team, we encourage you to use our staff directory.
With the announcement that all public schools in the State of Maryland will be closed until April 24, 2020, we are aware that many programs will need to be rescheduled.
We believe strongly in the power of the arts to lift and empower students, especially during uncertain times such as these. We are also deeply committed to the livelihood of our professional artists, who are facing uncertainty during this time. They are independent contractors and rely on income from programs that now must be postponed to later in the school year. Because of our commitments to students, schools, and teaching artists, our team is dedicated to working closely with each school to reschedule all programs.
Each Maryland county has a dedicated Program Coordinator available to help. If you don’t know who to reach out to, please use our county directory.
We are in communication with our artists and will be hosting two group conversations next week to share information, answer questions, and understand the full scope of artists’ concerns and needs.
Our mission is to integrate the arts into the lives and education of children. And while schools are not open for us to advance our mission in the typical way, we know children, families, and educators could benefit from our support. We remain committed to being mission-oriented every single day—even if it has to be online and virtual. If you are not connected to our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter pages, but you want to remain connected in our pursuit, please consider following us. On Monday, we will begin sharing arts learning resources and activities that families and educators can use to keep kids engaged in learning.
In the meantime, we encourage everyone to stay informed and utilize the following resources:
- Facebook group to support educators who are planning distance or online learning due to school closures for COVID-19
- Education Companies Offering Free Subscriptions due to COVID-19 School Closings
- Coronavirus: Multilingual Resources for Schools
- MSDE Fine Arts Office’s Fine and Performing Arts Resources
- COVID-19 & Freelance Artists
- Emergency Medical Grants for Artists
- CERF+ Assistance with intensive medical care due to COVID-19
For Parents and Community
- The Center for Disease Control
- World Health Organization
- Maryland State Department of Education
- Two Free months of internet from Comcast Internet Essentials for qualifying families
- 211: the official Health & Human Service line for Maryland residents in need
- Talking to Teens and Tweens About Coronavirus
- Maryland Unites
Stacie Sanders Evans
President & CEO
We know that students who have regular access to arts opportunities outperform their peers in virtually every measure. And thanks to generous donors, Young Audiences’ artists and programs are available to high-need Baltimore City Public Schools at up to 80% off of the cost through the Access for All Initiative! This opportunity helps principals with limited resources provide hands-on learning in the arts that not only supplements and enriches the curriculum, but sparks energy and joy throughout entire classrooms.
The first two rounds of Access for All awards for the 2019-20 school year have been granted and 15 principals are already able to take advantage of everything an artist can bring to expand students’ experience and learning in the classroom! Congratulations to the following Baltimore City Public Schools:
- Gardenville Elementary School
- Harlem Park Elementary/Middle School
- Bard High School Early College
- Arundel Elementary/Middle School
- Digital Harbor High School
- Baltimore International Academy
- Liberty Elementary School
- James McHenry Elementary/Middle School
- Bay Brook Elementary/Middle School
- Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle School
- Hamilton Elementary/Middle School
- Cecil Elementary School
- Gwynns Falls Elementary School
- Liberty Elementary School
- City Neighbors Charter School
Through Access for All, students at these schools are working in their own classrooms with professional teaching artists like Bomani, Amanda Pellerin, Christina Delgado, Ssuuna, Katherine Dilworth, Baltimore Improv Group, Max Bent, John Iampieri, and Rockcreek Steel Drums. Students’ ears and eyes will open even wider when treated to energetic and inspirational assemblies from ensembles like WombWork Productions, Inc., Illstyle and Peace Productions, Mark Lohr, and Milkshake!
And experiences like these—dynamic and engaging performances and learning through new art forms—are what make school fun, make problem-solving exciting, make learning memorable, and make lessons stick.
Our Spring Access for All deadline is Friday, February 14, 2020. Apply online now. Arts Every Day Schools: Arts Every Day funds CAN be used to pay the 20% match for an Access for All program! Visit yamd.org/grants to learn more.
Our staff at Young Audiences do not just come to work. We come to support a mission: to transform the lives and education of our youth through the arts by connecting educators, professional artists, and communities. And we come with our hearts and minds and bodies ready to go above and beyond to realize this mission.
Micaela wrote, “When I started at Young Audiences six years ago, I thought we needed the arts to help students be more engaged in school and make learning more accessible. I had just been a teacher, and I saw changes in my students when they worked in the arts—new leaders emerged when we did a class talent show, and huge smiles appeared on kids’ faces when they got “their own” recorders to take home from music class.
We need young people who not only have the skills needed to build a better world, but can imagine what that might look like. Artists in schools seems like one of our best shots at giving kids the space and community to become the wild, imaginative thinkers and doers that we all need.
These things are still true—the arts are awesome at engaging kids in school, providing an opportunity for students to do hands on work that is meaningful, visible, and matters. And, they spark joy in kids!
Today, though, I think there is more that I didn’t realize a few years ago. I think we need imagination in volume and degrees beyond what I understand. We need young people who not only have the skills needed to build a better world, but can imagine what that might look like. Artists in schools seems like one of our best shots at giving kids the space and community to become the wild, imaginative thinkers and doers that we all need.”
Our artists know how to use their art form to draw kids into the work, to get students to challenge and surprise themselves and proudly show off their achievements. They see how arts integration engages and motivates even the most reluctant students.
Spoken Word Artist Femi the Drifish told us, ”I was working with 7th graders at Commodore John Rodgers Elementary/Middle doing an arts integration math program using rhythm, rhyme, and poetry. Going through what is common in a classroom, I challenged the students to use their algebra vocabulary to describe the city of Baltimore using the terms in creative ways—metaphorically, but in correct context.
There was one student, clearly the “too cool for school” type, who just wasn’t participating in any activity that led up to the final writing exercise. Once the scaffolding was completed and students were set to complete their assigned writing prompt, I witnessed that one kid scribbling on paper in the corner by his lonesome, away from tables where students where gathered.
Upon completion, students shared their work trying to impress each other with the cleverness of their vocabulary usage in the Baltimore City descriptive poems, when he asked if he could share his poem.
I was surprised—just like his teacher and his class peers—and quickly encouraged him to step up to the front of the class to present before he decided to retreat into the disinterested facade he used during all the warmups. As he delivered the poem I realized that he didn’t stick to the theme given, but instead described his love for the game of football using the math terms.
The class roared on cheers upon his completion and the teacher grabbed the poem from him to share with other teachers who wandered into the class to congratulate him.”
Alice’s year at Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA) meant so much to her. The program helped bring clarity to math concepts my daughter was struggling with through an art form she loves, she felt confident, and she felt like she was part of something larger than herself. It made her feel proud of herself and proud of her community.
She wrote, “A lot of people think of Baltimore as how the news shows and talks about it. The news tends to only show the little bad things about us. I wish people could just see what SALA is like. It’s a perfect representation of Baltimore’s youth! It shows that we are creative, compassionate, caring, and loyal.” Now Rosario, my youngest daughter, looks forward to SALA every summer. And even though Alice is too old to attend, she volunteers in the program. “I can help and watch other children get the same great experience that I did.”
As I’ve seen with my own children, arts integration is not just fun in the moment. These are experiences that shape students’ mindsets, their education, their goals—experiences that students carry with them and inform their decisions for years to come. Please give today.
I have been a volunteer for Young Audiences for seven years now, ever since discovering them when Colette was in 10th grade, and was asked to speak at their Impact Breakfast. I learned then how much YA had already impacted her, as Colette was part of the PVA (Performing and Visual Arts) magnet at school. Teaching artists from YA were very active, and still are, with the PVA in Anne Arundel County.
But what really impressed me was YA’s involvement at all grade levels and in so many schools across Maryland. By integrating the arts into core curriculum, kids learn in a way that helps them retain the information. Whether it’s rapping their multiplication tables, dancing to showcase literature themes or creating mosaics to depict basic biology, the kids are learning because they’re HAVING FUN!
As for Colette, she’s finishing her senior year at East Carolina University, as an electrical engineer. And she still benefits from the arts-integrated education she has received. For example, although I may not comprehend the mathematical formulas in the papers I proofread for her, her PowerPoint presentations are so visually pleasing that I don’t mind reading what I don’t understand! Seriously, I hope you’ll consider donating today so that other kids can have the great experiences and training that she received as part of YA’s arts-integrated education techniques.
Young Audiences has played a pivotal role in Alex’s life, both past and present. As a child, he discovered his love of writing during a YA artist residency in his public elementary school. Nearly two decades later he works as a staff member with Young Audiences of Maryland.
He wrote “As an adult who was diagnosed with a learning disorder later in life, I can look back and say that my experience with YA was a turning point in my journey to know and love myself. When I had the chance to demonstrate my understanding by creating, rather than just consuming information, I found myself not only participating in class but thriving! I want to stress how much even a single experience can expand a young person’s horizons of possibility, both for their education and their future.”
Now, Alex coordinates YA’s programming with schools in Prince George’s, St. Mary’s and Calvert County and writes fiction and poetry as well. “It brings me great joy to step into a school and know that a student will find a lifelong sense of meaning and passion because of our work.”
Alex is an example of the power of arts integration in the life of our students, especially those who struggle to learn through traditional means. He is proud to “pay it forward” as a staff member and encourages you to support our work across the state of Maryland. Please give today.
A whole-child approach to learning puts significant focus on the social and emotional needs of students. And as we’ve seen in our Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA), the arts and arts integration pair naturally with social and emotional learning (SEL). In SALA, our teaching artists and their academic partners plan their lessons through a student-centered lens, giving children the opportunity to learn in a way that works best for them—and supplying them with the emotional tools they need to be successful and connected to the learning—and to each other. In fact, a report from Education Dive notes that in school, “artistic endeavors—whether performing, creating, or responding to others’ work—likely involve even more social-emotional skills and opportunities for students to practice them.”
Through drama, students in SALA feel the thrill of embodying their favorite storybook characters. They learn to express ideas through dance and emotions through music. They feel the pride of understanding mathematical concepts when, through visual arts, abstract ideas can be seen, felt, created, and replicated. What if we applied the artist expertise and program model that makes SALA so successful to the actual school year?
Knowing that MSDE-approved educational models like SALA’s can also be used to address many issues impacting education, our SALA team tailored its model to meet the needs of students who need extra schoolyear support and introduced Arts & Learning Days at three different sites in Baltimore City: Harlem Park Elementary/Middle, Collington Square Elementary/Middle, and Leith Walk Elementary/Middle. These new Arts & Learning Days give teachers and students the opportunity to teach and learn creatively, through self-expression, and with a focus on social and emotional wellbeing.
Arts & Learning Days:
- Support students in afterschool time
- Expose students to different art forms
- Provide teacher professional development in arts integration
- Increase academic performance
Each academic quarter has four Arts & Learning Days. On these days, five teaching artists spend the day at the school co-planning and co-teaching arts-integrated lessons with two different teachers each. Arts & Learning Days are more than artist residencies—they are real-time professional development for school-wide transformation. Teachers discover new ways to create engaging lessons, to blend academic and social and emotional learning, and to ignite creativity and self-expression—and they get to put it into practice right away!
Afterward, teachers and artists reflect and revise lessons. Classroom teachers also meet with Education Director Kristina Berdan multiple times, who offers the educators feedback and strategies to improve their practice.
The arts even extend into afterschool time when an artist or ensemble brings their program to an existing afterschool program for additional enrichment. This year alone, students enrolled in afterschool programs have already been able to work with Wombwork Productions, Inc., Vonnya Pettigrew of Root Branch Film, and Guardian Dance Company!
These opportunities for students and educators through Arts & Learning Days wouldn’t be possible without the support of the principals, the afterschool providers, and the teachers. We are looking forward to many more Arts & Learning Days to come and can’t wait to share them with you.
To access the Collington Square Arts & Learning Day 1 video transcript, click here.
Written by Barbara Krebs,
Young Audiences volunteer and Sunburst Society member
Recently I toured Ireland, circumnavigating this gorgeous island from the Republic of Ireland, to Northern Ireland before returning to Dublin. If you have half a day, I’ll be happy to tell you about everything I learned there, from Irish history to Irish dancing to Irish food to (ahh) Irish whiskey. But if you have only a few moments, then I’ll just tell you about my biggest takeaway from this trip–passion.
So now you’re thinking, “What does this have to do with Young Audiences?” In the great tradition of Irish storytelling, I will let you know how one starts in Ireland and ends up in Baltimore with passion as the theme.
My story starts with a tour guide in Northern Ireland named Garvin, who told us about his wonderful city, Derry. Following the itinerary map, I had been puzzled since I couldn’t find it. This mystery was quickly cleared up as Garvin explained that Derry is the town’s traditional Irish name but it had become Londonderry during British rule. But he was also quick to explain with a broad grin that what his city actually is, is Legen-Derry (Get it? “Legendary!”).
And thus began his tour of a city that he was obviously totally devoted to and passionate about. Today Derry is a wonderful city, with much to offer tourists–historic 17th fortification walls (the most intact in Ireland), Gothic-style cathedrals, a vibrant waterfront restaurant/bar scene and fascinating museums. But if, like me, you think of Derry during The Troubles, your memories will be very different, with scenes of bombed-out buses and civilian and British troop deaths.
But Garvin used that very history to make his point about his city being a wonderful place. He took us to Bogside, scene of infamous clashes between citizens and British military police, and said, matter-of-factly, “You would not be on a bus going here in the ‘70s, because it would be hijacked, turned on its side and burned out to use as a barricade to block the street against the British.” This, while we looked out the bus windows at calm, clean streets.
I loved the beauty of Derry, its rich and troubled history, and yes, the passion of Garvin. And what struck me most forcefully was how many times he repeated, “I thank you for coming to visit my beautiful city. Please tell your friends and relatives what a wonderful place it is.” And I knew then how deep his passion was for his flawed and scarred, yet fascinating city. And through him, I fell in love with it, too.
So now here’s the connect with Young Audiences. I have witnessed the passion of Young Audiences artists like Femi the DriFish and their teacher partners who, despite challenging situations, work tirelessly to promote learning in their classrooms, using the innovative arts techniques taught by YA. I have seen deep passion in our principals who set aside hard-fought funds to bring the arts into the classrooms when others are choosing to cut these opportunities. I see this passion in the YA board, who includes my husband, who donate their limited time outside of work and family to ensure that more kids have opportunities. It is through them that I fell in love with Young Audiences, too.
I am pleased to announce that Garvin’s passion for his birth city is contagious. With his example, I am happy to tell all who will listen that I am passionate about Young Audiences. I will tell folks about how fantastic Young Audiences is–and that includes you!
Wanna know more? Consider joining CEO Stacie Sanders Evans and a Young Audiences teaching artist on Thursday, December 5, 5:30-6:30 pm for a free, one-hour Meet YA Event. To register, please contact Erin Nolder via email or phone – firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 837-7577 ext. 105. All I ask is that afterward, like Garvin, you tell all your friends and relatives about the wonderful work that YA does.
Some big ideas are meant to be shared. It is through partnership and collaboration that the big ideas grow roots and become an integral part of something even bigger. In 2015, Pat Cruz, YA’s then-chief innovation officer, and educator Mary Kate Bransford had a dream. What if every kindergarten classroom in Prince Georges County Public Schools (PGCPS) had an arts-integrated environmental literacy program?
Their big idea brought together twenty teachers and five teaching artists to write a five-day lesson plan that both met environmental literacy and visual art criteria and explored themes like habitat restoration, local ecosystems, the life cycle of plants, and the lifecycle of animals for a brand new program: Growing Up Green. The program, a partnership between Young Audiences and the Prince Georges County Office of Environmental Literacy, would be piloted in 17 schools in the district in the 2015-16 school year.
That first year resulted in the creation of five separate 5-day arts-integrated environmental literacy lessons. Teaching artists worked side by side with kindergarten teachers all five days of the program with the goal of handing off that role to each individual school’s art teacher in future years. To prepare teachers, Kristina Berdan, Young Audiences Education Director, trained teacher ambassadors, kindergarten lead teachers, and art/music teachers to use the arts as a teaching tool in their classrooms. “I used to think art was a product of a lesson,” said one kindergarten teacher in Prince George’s County Public Schools after being trained in arts integration through Growing Up Green. “Now I think art is the process to achieve the objective.”
The team constantly listened, assessed, reflected, and revised, resulting in a comprehensive catalog of resources for teachers and the refinement of, in the second year, four unique residencies instead of the initial five, and then in its third year, one: Fiber artist Pam Negrin‘s The Lifecycle of Plants. Kindergarteners and their teachers explored nature with their real-life senses—looking, smelling, touching—to not just learn about our natural world, but experience it. Classrooms across the district were outfitted with custom-made embroidery tables where students could gather and stitch their observations, building with and learning from one another. “We think with our hands and when students are immersed in a lesson together, they begin to make their own connections,” said Pam. From sharing what they learned during the school day at home to internalizing and remembering more information, the effects on learning were so profound that once-resistant teachers embraced learning through arts integration and extended it into other content areas.
Growing Up Green combines the arts and time outdoors with making connections between humans and the environment and brainstorming solutions. “The program gets kids outside and thinking about the bigger picture and the combination of all the elements of the program supports the district’s goals,” said James Roberson, PGCPS Instructional Specialist for Environmental Literacy. And after the lessons have ended, classes are left with beautiful embroidered tapestries they can share with the school community. “The tapestries are a great way to showcase what they’ve learned.”
Our state was the first in the nation to approve an environmental graduation requirement for all Maryland students. In 2011, the school board created Environmental Literacy Standards that would support the growth of the planet’s next generation of stewards. Prince George’s County Public Schools is intentionally integrating these standards into the PreK-12 curriculum, and through Growing Up Green, they are successfully reaching the county’s youngest students. This is the first year that PGCPS is running Growing Up Green without Young Audiences’ support. “Young Audiences has been an outstanding partner over the last four years,” said Roberson.
“I’m really impressed by how different teachers have taken what they learned and run with it,” said Jhanna Levin, PGCPS Environmental Literacy Outreach Teacher. As a result of Growing Up Green, teachers in the district’s Autism Program, for instance, have embraced the art of embroidery, the fine motor skills it develops, and the calm it inspires. “It soothes the kids in a way they weren’t expecting.” Levin, new to the department, has taken the reigns of Growing Up Green and nurtured the development of teachers new to the program as well as veteran educators. She is constantly checking in and helping the teachers to do what works best for them.
She is holding a training session this coming January for lead kindergarten teachers to explore additional arts integration techniques for classrooms and it’s not just new teachers who are looking forward to it. “We’re talking about turning T-shirts into yarn and using dance for the observational piece,” said Levin. James Roberson added, “We’re really excited about what Jhanna brings to the program.”
Growing Up Green was a tiny seed that with research and tremendous effort and love, Young Audiences was able to sow. Through the amazing partnership we’ve had with PGCPS, we’ve seen the program evolve and take shape in a way that both works best for the district and stays true to the vision of Growing Up Green at its conception. We are extremely proud to see the district take charge and continue nurturing and developing this incredible program. Levin said, “There are teachers who have done this for three years now and they say, ‘Just give us the materials. We’ve got this.'”
Mrs. Aleesha Manning, Principal of Cecil Elementary, began her teaching career in Baltimore City in 2003 as a Kindergarten teacher at Lakewood Elementary. The following year, she joined the Cecil family/community and served as a teacher and assistant principal. She is a graduate of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania with a degree in Early Childhood Education and earned her Master’s Degree in Instructional Leadership from Towson University. “Arts Integration has always been an important part of my teaching philosophy. As a teacher, and now as a principal, I am always seeking out ways for my students to participate in the arts,” she said. “We have applied for grants, created in-house programs, and work tirelessly to keep arts in our academic programming.”
“I have a teacher who has had experience with arts integration and she has explained that student outcomes are much higher,” Mrs. Manning said. “I want my students to be able to take their learning to the next level and experience academics in a new way that is highly effective and long-lasting.”
Knowing the value arts education and arts integration brings to her school and students’ education, Mrs. Manning applied for Young Audiences’ Principal Fellowship Program. The 11-session program began this summer and brought together ten outstanding Baltimore City Public Schools Principals, including Mrs. Manning, who are all committed to using the arts to build a positive school climate that advances student wholeness and/or to improve academic instruction.
Through the fellowship, she hopes to inspire teachers school-wide to intentionally integrate the arts into their lessons—even when an artist is not present in the classroom. “I have a teacher who has had experience with arts integration and she has explained that student outcomes are much higher,” Mrs. Manning said. “I want my students to be able to take their learning to the next level and experience academics in a new way that is highly effective and long-lasting.”
Mrs. Aleesha Manning, Principal of Cecil Elementary, is one of ten Baltimore City Public Schools principals selected to participate in the Principal Fellowship Program. The year-long fellowship provides principals with the guidance and framework to develop an arts-based action plan in their schools and we are thrilled to have her in the inaugural cohort!