Written by Stacie Sanders Evans,
Chair, Young Audiences’ National Residency Teaching Artist Credential
President & CEO, Young Audiences of Maryland
One of the things I admire about many of the artists I encounter is their ability to envision and create without constraint. Most of the time, I feel my ability to dream is tethered to my day to day constraints. Fortunately, I have the rare board of directors at Young Audiences of Maryland (YAMD) that isn’t asking me why our copying budget is over by 10%. Instead, they are encouraging me to dream bigger dreams and actually discouraging me from worrying about how to pay for it. They want to help shoulder the burden of these constraints so I have enough moments to live in the delicious “what if” space.
“What if” moments have gotten Young Audiences to where it is today both locally and nationally. One “what if” moment just recently led to a successful pilot of the Young Audiences National Residency Teaching Artist Credential for exceptional teaching artists. Up until this pilot, unlike almost all other professions within education, there has been no nationally recognized credential for the field of teaching artistry.
Twelve artists (featured below) from seven different states have completed a very rigorous application process and earned the National Residency Teaching Artist Credential to date. Let’s applaud these amazing artists who took a chance with us and contributed to the larger idea of “what if” in an effort to help us test and refine a credentialing system.
Young Audiences formed in 1950 in Baltimore because of our founder, Nina Collier’s, “what if” moment. Nina’s question, “What if we bring musicians into our schools to perform?” ultimately led to the movement that created 32 Young Audiences affiliates across the United States and now benefits five million students annually. She had no idea the impact that question would have on children and artists.
In the ’90s, YAMD’s first paid executive director, Patricia Thomas, had another important “what if” moment: “What if artists are no longer limited to the auditoriums of our schools? What if they go into classrooms to give kids a chance to create in an art form?” Today, artists in partnership with Young Audiences, impact 230,000 hours of classroom learning in the arts every year, creating powerful moments for Maryland’s young people. Thank goodness there were Nina Colliers in communities across our country who were creating the same kind of opportunities for more children.
Once Young Audiences saw the transformative power of our artists in classroom settings to inspire kids and we saw how high stakes testing was narrowing the curriculum and negatively impacting student engagement in the classroom, we asked another “what if.”
“What if Young Audiences played a larger role in education and in our communities to bridge the gap between what we know the best conditions are for learning and what children actually receive in school? I call this the inspiration gap.
This “what if” led us to invest heavily in artist training (far beyond even our own roster of artists) and to create many more opportunities for artists to partner with academic teachers to use their art form to draw kids into learning in literacy, math, social studies, and science classes. This is known as arts integration, which could be learning fractions through the steel drum or about figurative language through writing and performing their own poems, or about the scientific method by writing rap songs.
Using the arts helps students connect to the academic content in meaningful ways–so the learning “sticks.” Young Audiences’ arts integration approach also requires students to “show what they know” through the arts by either performing or exhibiting. Students become more visible in this kind of classroom and it nurtures the sense that they matter. When you make the learning matter and students know that they matter–that is the secret sauce to bridging the inspiration gap.
Now school districts and foundations see us in a broader light, as an organization that can help improve educational outcomes for kids. These groups are investing nearly three million dollars in YAMD this year so we can address stubborn problems in education: preventing summer learning loss, increasing school readiness, and improving teacher practice.
Across the country, we have artists who are ready to bridge the inspiration gap, and there are even more who, with the right training and support, will soon be ready to join them. We believe the National Residency Teaching Artist Credential, along with a network of coordinated, affordable professional development opportunities, could lead to kids in all communities having greater access to a quality education–one that includes arts education and opportunities to learn in, through, and about the arts from the best professional artists in their community (even where there is no local Young Audiences affiliate).
Imagine a society where teaching artists are recognized for the valuable role they play in breathing creativity and possibility into our schools. Work which, in turn, draws kids back into learning. Imagine how many more kids would benefit if artists were able to choose teaching artistry as a profession because it was treated like other professions.
Many, many things are needed to realize this vision, and I believe a credentialing system–one that is developed in partnership with artists and educators with students at the center–is one important component in a larger ecosystem that needs attention. And I’m not alone. A national survey revealed that 94% of teaching artists want a credential like the one we are designing for the field. One reason artists support this idea is that, currently, since our field lacks a credential, there is no unified way for that expertise to be recognized or validated.
For example, dance and teaching artist Valerie Branch has performed with over 10 dance companies, choreographed over 100 dance works, has a Bachelors degree in Dance (Magna Cum Laude), and has led artist-in-residence programs in 150 schools. But as a teaching artist, she had no signifier of her expertise, excellence, or the value she brings to the classroom. The National Residency Teaching Artist Credential solves this problem.
We are still early in this “What if we created a National Residency Teaching Artist Credential?” moment. And we hope one day, after thoughtful adjustment and many discussions with different stakeholders (that includes you!), and in partnership with the many other national and local organizations that care about education, this credential could be something that the broader field will welcome.
Was there ever a time an artist closed the “inspiration gap” for you or a young person you love? Let’s make more moments like that for our young people. Wanna “what if” with Young Audiences around this idea? Let me know because it will take all of us–you, me, our friends, and our friends’ friends–to turn this new“what if” into a reality.
2018 Young Audiences’ National Residency Teaching Artist Credential Recipients
Valerie Branch, Young Audiences of Maryland
Melli Hoppe, Arts for Learning, the Indiana Affiliate of Young Audiences
Molly Johnson, Young Audiences of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania
Laura Marchese, Young Audiences of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania
Ray McNiece, Center for Arts-Inspired Learning, the NE Ohio Affiliate of Young Audiences
Emma Parker, Center for Arts-Inspired Learning, the NE Ohio Affiliate of Young Audiences
Malke Rosenfeld, Arts for Learning, the Indiana Affiliate of Young Audiences
Chris Sheard, Young Audiences of Louisiana
2019 Young Audiences’ National Residency Teaching Artist Credential Recipients:
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 Martin. Since 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 Pre–K-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.
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.
In January, the sun disappears so quickly—its absence makes the air that much colder. It feels funny to reflect on my youngest daughter’s first experience at Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA) when, outside, it feels like it just might snow.
Kiyah and I, both of us parents of children who attended SALA 2018, were asked to meet at Young Audiences a couple of weeks ago. A teacher, Jesika Paige, was here, too. She wasn’t at my child’s SALA site last year, but I remember meeting her once. And I recognize her from our How We Do Summer video. Her smile is warm and her energy is radiant and it was so nice to be sitting at the table with her. Joining us were five teaching artists: Katherine Dilworth, Jamaal “Mr. Root” Collier, Vonnya Pettigrew, and Mama Kay and Mama Rashida of WombWork Productions, along with staff members Michael Brush, Monique Cox, Kurtis Donnelly, and Kristina Berdan.
Parents love SALA for a multitude of reasons. For one, Baltimore City Public Schools students participating in SALA have not only avoided summer learning loss but, in many cases, gained ground on their national peers in standardized testing. Between this and the fact that kids in SALA are immersed in meaningful art projects every single day, enrolling my 6-year-old was an easy decision. And as Ms. Paige noted in How We Do Summer, “for children who suppress their art during the school year, this was a time for them to actually show up and show out and show their artistic ability.” So, how can we take this amazing and enriching educational experience and make it even better? This is what we are here to find out.
Something that Young Audiences always makes sure to do is collect and evaluate feedback from all of a program’s stakeholders. If you are ever asked to fill out a survey regarding one of YA’s programs, know that your comments are read, your answers to questions are carefully considered, and your voice matters. The idea to form a community advisory for SALA was brought about in the feedback we collected from parents, and from students, teachers, and artists. Our mission is to ensure that SALA (an incredible, free, arts-filled, and academically excellent program) is student-centered and to identify program changes and improvements to implement during SALA 2019.
Coming together with other stakeholders for the SALA Community Advisory’s inaugural meeting reiterated to me the desire of everyone involved to improve, and to be wise, and strong. The group committed to making sure all families are involved all along the way and that all ideas are welcome. We look forward to sharing and listening with open hearts and open minds, reflecting on what we did well in 2018, what we can do better, on ideas for the future, and welcoming the unexpected. We cannot wait for another summer of SALA, each one better than the last—in the meantime, let it snow. Written by Shannon Kline, parent and Young Audiences Communications Associate.
If you would like to be a part of the Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA) Community Advisory, we invite you to contact Kurtis Donnelly at email@example.com. Your thoughtful input helps to make our programs the very best for students and we appreciate your time and dedication.
Thanks to our smARTbeats partners, WTMD, we have five Family Four-Packs for the Saturday Morning Tunes Grateful Dead tribute show with Ed Hough’s Dead Collective to give away! That means five of our lucky Facebook followers will receive four tickets each to the SOLD-OUT 9:30 a.m. show at the American Visionary Art Museum on Saturday, February 2, 2019!
Grateful Dead fans with young kids won’t want to miss out on the chance to attend this sold-out event! Ed Hough’s Dead Collective, who are some of Baltimore’s best roots and Americana musicians, will be channelling the music of the Grateful Dead in AVAM’s banquet hall among the museum’s renowned colorful and engaging artwork. Tickets also include organic snacks and juice for kids and coffee for adults. Doors open at 9 a.m., and the show runs 9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
Many thanks to WTMD for sharing this amazing opportunity! This contest is now closed.
Written by Barbara Krebs,
Young Audiences volunteer and Sunburst Society member
A few weeks ago, I was happy to attend Young Audiences’ third Art Crawl, held this year at the Single Carrot Theatre adjacent to YA’s offices.
For those of you who have not attended this annual event, I highly encourage you to do so. First of all, you’ll get to party with a group of fun, interesting, entertaining and dedicated folks. Secondly, you’ll get to enjoy the learning environment presented to the kids who attend YA’s Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA). And by that, I mean you’ll act, play music and create artwork, which helps you understand your reading assignment or your math homework. And finally, you get to nosh on great hors-d’oeuvres and sip handcrafted cocktails created by some of YA’s board members!
As always, I find myself splitting my time between talking to people I’ve met in the past, and meeting new folks who have interesting stories to tell. This time was no different. Balancing a plate of delicious appetizers from Copper Kitchen and a glass of wine provided by North Charles Fine Wine & Spirits, my husband and I soon found an empty spot at a table and introduced ourselves to Cori Daniel and Carlotta Williams. Turns out they were actually a teaching artist/teacher team who would later explore the book, Tar Beach, a story by artist Faith Ringgold recalling the dream adventure of a young girl flying high above her neighborhood in 1939 Harlem.
No matter the genre, the goal is making sure the children stay focused on the subject matter, sneakily presented as a lot of fun.
But I didn’t know this yet. What I did find out though was how long they had been teaching, what they taught, and I got to observe their obvious enthusiasm for the children and learning. Their animated conversation about their SALA classroom was fascinating, as were their fond memories of inspiring kids to learn while the children used their imaginations to improve their reading scores.
Oh, did I just use inspire, imagine and improve in one sentence? Yes, I did, and that is, of course, no accident. Having witnessed teachers and children in action in several of SALA’s classrooms this summer, and getting a chance to actually engage in it myself during Art Crawl is to truly understand how those three words create an arts-integrated learning environment that SALA uses to stem summer learning loss and bridge the Inspiration Gap.
In SALA’s five-week summer classrooms, kids use a wide variety of art techniques to help them master core subjects – whether it’s textile art to illustrate a story they are studying or rapping their multiplication tables or dancing to show character development. No matter the genre, the goal is making sure the children stay focused on the subject matter, sneakily presented as a lot of fun.
And so it was. In the segment taught by the second-grade teacher and teaching artist I had just met, we warmed up with some dance movements to highlight acting concepts. Then we looked at the pictures in the book and explained what we saw in them. Finally, we paired off and used our imaginations to explore a special place for us – one that made us feel warm and welcomed.
Next up was a math segment, guided by teaching artist Nadia Rea Morales and teacher Jose Hernandez. With a chart in the room illustrating ones as yellow, tens as red, and hundreds as blue, I created a Piet Mondrian “masterpiece.” The focus was to teach second-graders their ones, tens, and hundreds places and the relationships between digits and their place value. My own memory of learning such things was of boring, rote exercises that left me cold. Here, I hadn’t had so much fun with scissors and construction paper in ages. And to think – I was learning math!
I ended the evening with teaching artist Christina Cook, who was surrounded by a variety of percussion instruments. As she demonstrated how these were used to sound out the syllables in words, I noticed how she was combining both math and vocabulary – a certain number of syllables to express a phrase, as she beat the rhythm on her drum. She then handed out instruments and instructed us to follow along.
In addition, she said she used this technique to help the pre-K kids she taught to express their emotions. At first, she told us that the students mostly stuck to “happy” or “sad,” but soon she noticed that, as the kids gained confidence with the percussion pieces, their emotional range expanded, too. Now they were “curious” and “frustrated” and “ecstatic.” She admitted that she was impressed with the varying emotions the kids conveyed as well as the fact that they already had the vocabulary to communicate it. They had only needed the little nudge the music gave them to open up and express themselves more fully.
I have to admit – Inspire, Imagine, Improve is a mantra I can really get behind. Because each time I’ve attended Art Crawl, I come away inspired by all the people who donate time, expertise and/or money to make SALA a reality for 2,100 elementary school-age kids. I can only imagine how much harder it would be for the children and their teachers if this summer program didn’t exist. And I know that Young Audiences’ aim to improve test scores and access to arts-integrated learning is something I’m behind 100 percent.
Wouldn’t you like a little Inspire, Imagine, Improve in your life? Come join us next year and I think you’ll find your own stories of imagination that inspire you to improve. Until then, Happy Holidays!
Have you noticed how much we’re growing? Our staff is now 29 people strong! That collective energy is felt every day, but it really blew us all away as new and veteran staff sang together at the start of our annual retreat. Some of us were just getting to know everyone—one of us was meeting everyone for the very first time that day— and all of us grateful for the time together. As you may well know, at Young Audiences, we start with the art! The group split into sections and sang one of three traditional gospel hymns, each individually powerful. When sung together as a medley, though, the three hymns created an entirely new force.
Over the summer, we created two new Teaching Artist Fellow positions within the organization and welcomed Katherine Dilworth and Valerie Branch into the role! Both Katherine and Valerie are highly skilled in teaching artistry and have been delivering arts-integrated instruction and teacher professional development with Young Audiences for years. In addition to continuing their fantastic work in the schools as teaching artists, they will also serve in an expanded capacity by consulting with school districts and partners on arts integration strategies and practice, leading PDs, and mentoring other Teaching Artists.
“I really love being in this new position at YA. I love that I have the opportunity to grow as an artist and hone in on my skills as a mentor and Master Teaching Artist,” said Valerie — who will be doing a lot of work in Prince George’s County, including professional development and training teachers as part of their new Arts Integration Master Teacher training program. “I am excited for all of the continued possibilities that lie ahead and am looking forward to getting into the classroom this school year!”
Nel Andrews is officially our new Chief Operating Officer. She comes to us from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, where she worked for the last 10 years in their Center for Systems Innovation. She has a passion for racial equity, organizational development, and systems change. We are thrilled to have her join our family! We also welcomed Arnold Joo to the brand new Data and Systems Manager position and promoted Michael Brush to Summer Arts & Learning Academy Regional Director. To top it all off, three new program coordinators have joined the staff and settled right in: Kerrigan Dougherty, Alex Crockett, and Cori Gill.
“We couldn’t be more proud of our growth and all of the hardworking and passionate people we are working with on this journey,” said Young Audiences President & CEO Stacie Sanders Evans. “We are everyday people committed to transforming education through the arts. We have enormous respect for our teaching artists and such love for our communities.” And while we are a growing organization of many parts, we work in sync, moving forward together— a medley of many parts reverberating, energizing, elevating, working to realize our mission: that one day, every student in Maryland will have the opportunity to imagine, create, and realize their full potential through the arts.
Chesapeake Arts Center (CAC) Resident Artist and UMBC Visual Arts Professor Stephen Bradley’s work spans many disciplines. His art explores our relationship to place through ambient sound recordings, landscape photography, and recorded stories juxtaposed with artifacts discarded or lost in the landscape. The location- the place- where his most recent artwork, Community Connection Sculpture, is installed reaffirms the importance and connection we have with certain locations and challenges us to consider how our relationships and interactions with a place can impact its- and our – future.
As the center of community in Northern Anne Arundel County, the Chesapeake Arts Center serves to excite, educate, engage, inspire, and grow through performances, exhibitions, classes, and collaborations with artists, educators, business and community leaders, and organizations. Welcoming students of all ages through its doors every day, it is only fitting that this meeting, gathering, and growing space is now home to a large metal Armillary Sphere created by the artist with Ricky Siegert at Inferno Design and Charles Pennington. It stands at the entrance of the CAC, reminiscent of an artifact from the past, inspiring wonder and kindling ingenuity. Bradley shared some details about the artwork and what it represents for the community.
Community Connection Sculpture – Honoring the Past, Embracing our Future.
The public sculpture symbolizes an optimistic and innovative future created through the union of the arts and technology that serves the local community. Historically, CAC has been one of the few open spaces in the area for creative exploration. CAC offers ceramics, theatre, music, dance, painting and other related arts, including exhibitions and performances. Today, CAC offers its newest facility to community residents with the launch of a contemporary MakerSpace. Classes are available for those who seek to become certified in order to use computer-controlled tools — including those used for wood-working and light metal fabrication.
Historical armillary spheres were originally used as a way to model celestial objects, such as the sun, stars, and planets. Instead of the earth occupying its center, however, this sculpture holds a hexagonal form with an array of LED lights. The sculpture’s nucleus represents the center of CAC’s creative offerings and illuminates the building’s facade with subtle shifts of shadow and light from within its local “universe.” Its rings demarcate local points: Baltimore City, Annapolis, Curtis Bay, Brooklyn Park, Linthicum, and other significant places in the surrounding communities that CAC serves.
This contemporary version of the 2,000-year-old armillary pays homage to art and science endeavors of the past while inviting viewers to participate in a creative future dedicated to embracing arts and technology- one that values a STEAM-rich education, civic participation, and social entrepreneurial opportunities.
The Chesapeake Arts Center (CAC) is an Arts Empowered Minds Initiative (AEMI) partner along with Young Audiences of Maryland, Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS), Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance (AEMS), The Arts Council of Anne Arundel County, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), and Creating Communities. In addition to his art and teaching commitments, Stephen Bradley serves as an AEMI Advisory Committee member.
Written by Barbara Krebs,
Young Audiences volunteer and Sunburst Society member
Spark. Ahh, now that’s a great word. Quick, simple, to the point. And it’s versatile – noun or verb – it’s all good. And if you’re a fan of onomatopoeia (and who isn’t?), well, I think spark works well there, too.
If you attended the 11th annual Young Audiences Impact Breakfast, you heard that word a lot. First, from Stacie Sanders Evans, President and CEO of Young Audiences, whose drama teacher sparked a passion that would put her on the path to her leadership of YA. You heard it from Jaime Clough, a second-grade Baltimore City Public School teacher who taught in YA’s Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA) and who has used the tools and strategies learned at SALA to transform her classroom during the school year. You even heard it from a student. High school senior Jahsol Drummond spoke about his experience developing his video and editing skills at the Center for Innovative Research in the Creative Arts (CIRCA) at UMBC in last summer’s Bloomberg Arts Internship. He shared his plans for the future as a college student (he was awarded a full scholarship to Bard College) and as a filmmaker. “My career has only just begun, and it’s already so exciting,” Jahsol beamed.
It is amazing where a spark will take you if you have the passion and determination to stoke the fire.
But, of course, the thing about the Impact Breakfast is not just the inspirational stories we hear from the presenters, nor is it solely about acknowledging the remarkable strides Young Audiences has made over the past few years in overcoming summer learning loss. These are important and wonderful things to witness, no doubt. But what truly struck me this time around was the synergy of people attending this event united by the desire to improve educational opportunities for the children in our communities.
Seated to my right was Kariz Marcel, a DJ, music producer, teaching artist, and founder of the nonprofit Innovation Echo Alliance who is seeking ways to partner with Young Audiences and other educational organizations through his music industry connections. As he explained it to me, he was hoping to establish a roster of professional recording artists who would be willing to donate a small portion of their music royalties to these organizations as an ongoing and sustainable way to raise funds for education in our local schools.
Another gentleman at our table was Lieutenant Steven Thomas, a member of the Anne Arundel County Police Crisis Intervention Team. He and his team identify youth who can be helped by, for instance, after-school programs, like the Police, Artist, and Community Engagement program (PACE), and then find ways to make these things happen. For example, when it was discovered that transportation was an issue, they partnered with the school system to provide it. That meant getting the school-approved CDL bus license so they could drive students on the county’s buses. A little spark of creativity to problem solve what might otherwise have been a deal killer. Instead, police officers are keeping local youth involved in enrichment programs.
Likewise, I got a chance to talk briefly with Dr. Stuart Levine, President and Chief Medical Officer of MedStar Harbor Hospital, who I had heard speak only a week before at the unveiling of the mural that now sits in the lobby of the hospital’s Emergency Department. This mural, which focused on how cells and viruses interact with human and animal bodies, was created by sixth-grade biology students from Brooklyn Park Middle School. The project was the result of a multi-week Young Audiences teaching artist residency in partnership with Arts Empowered Minds Initiative (AEMI). So here was yet another way that a group, which is pivotal to the lives and health of its local community, had found a way to connect with young students, perhaps sparking future collaborations?
And that is just a small sampling of the conversations I had at my table alone. As I looked across the room, I could only imagine what discussions, ideas, creative solutions, and inspirational tales were being shared elsewhere. Knowing that so many people had gathered because they have a passion to improve the educational lives of our youth, I came away from the event feeling recharged, hopeful and, yes, ready to find fresh ways to kindle the spark – in whatever myriad forms it appears – in my own life and those of others.
Indeed, there is no telling what particular spark at what precise table will catch fire and generate a lasting, positive impact.
But that’s the Impact Breakfast for you – a kaleidoscope of people who are sparking change and impacting the future for our children!
Young Audiences is excited to announce the arts and culture worksite partners for the 2018 Bloomberg Arts Internship in Baltimore. This year’s expansion of the program meant that we needed to partner with even more of Baltimore’s high-quality, renown institutions than we did last year. In order to fully serve the needs of the incoming cohort of interns, we increased the total number of worksite partners from 14 to 20. Bloomberg Arts interns will be gaining tremendously valuable experience working and learning three days a week at one of the following 20 local arts and cultural organizations this summer:
Internship projects vary among organizations to include production, education, development, community engagement, artist engagement, video, music, administration and more. Last year’s interns worked on everything from curating museum exhibits, to integrating technology into museum experiences, to engaging young children in arts activities. At the end of the program, interns create final presentations highlighting their experiences, sharing with the community the new skills and interests that have developed over the course of their internships at each site.
“I love being at the Bloomberg Arts Internship. You guys have helped me grow in the working field and I would not trade out the people I have met for anything in the world.” –Triaje Eaddy, 2017 BAI intern
A large network of community partners are working to prepare 35 hard-working and motivated Baltimore City Public High School students for higher education and careers in the arts. Baltimore is rich with not only excellent arts and cultural institutions, but with the phenomenal people whose contributions and passion make those very same organizations so great. “I love being at the Bloomberg Arts Internship,” said 2017 BAI intern Triaje Eaddy. “You guys have helped me grow in the working field and I would not trade out the people I have met for anything in the world.” Introducing young minds to the people, all of the incredible possibilities, and the many opportunities open to them in a career in the arts is a great gift to us all.
Young Audiences’ Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA), the innovative, free, five-week arts-integration program for Baltimore City Public Schools students, will double in size this summer, expanding to eight sites and serving nearly 2,200 students across Baltimore City.
New data show that arts integration at SALA reduces summer learning loss and improves academic performance.
The Academy will be held July 9 to August 10, 2018, at eight sites: Commodore John Rodgers Elementary, Lakeland Elementary/Middle, Steuart Hill Academic Academy, Lyndhurst Elementary, Sinclair Lane Elementary, Gardenville Elementary, Edgecombe Circle Elementary and the newly renovated and expanded Dorothy I. Height Elementary. Now in its fourth year, the program engages students in hands-on creativity while exploring math and literacy with local teaching artists and teachers.
Students will participate directly with 86 teaching artists (local, working artists trained for classroom instruction) – twice as many artists as last year – working in a variety of mediums including painting, songwriting, poetry, illustration, dance, music, photography, playwriting, and filmmaking. Students might find themselves writing songs to summarize main ideas in a story with musician Lisa Mathews, or creating dance sequences to remember the steps in solving math word problems with dancer Cynthia Chavez.
Along with the Academy’s expansion this year comes new opportunities for students through various partnerships, including athletics with Morgan State University and one on one reading tutoring with Reading Partners. These expanded offerings will be available to all students, with opportunities to participate in sports, to learn to code, and to have one-on-one literacy tutoring. Students will also perform at Artscape in July, Baltimore’s largest arts festival, and at pop-up performances around the city. SALA applications opened March 1.
“Every single day, I see how infusing creativity into learning transforms classrooms and children,” said Young Audiences President and CEO Stacie Sanders Evans. “We’re overjoyed to know that the Summer Arts & Learning Academy’s expansion this summer will help us reach twice as many students with arts integration—an approach that research shows works, especially in summer months.”
Data released in January 2018 by City Schools and Young Audiences show that students in 2017’s Summer Arts & Learning Academy significantly reduced summer learning loss in reading and math, and improved writing skills. Summer learning loss—when students lose academic ground over the summer months—is among the most difficult challenges facing the Baltimore school district and many others across the country.
“Young Audiences’ summer program gives students the chance to express themselves creatively, pursue their interests, and be inspired to reach their potential, things that we’ve also been focusing on this school year as part of our blueprint for success,” said Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools. “We’re excited by our partnership with Young Audiences and the positive results our students have seen in the program in past years. By expanding the program this coming summer, more students can enroll and will start next school year off stronger.”
City Schools study shows that in reading, third through fifth grade SALA attendees experienced negligible summer learning loss (less than one percentile point) in i-Ready standardized testing compared with more than three percentile points lost by all other students in the district. In math, third through fifth graders regularly attending SALA lost only 3.77 percentile points in i-Ready standardized testing. City Schools students with no summer activities lost nearly twice that, at an average of 5.77 percentile points.
According to an analysis by Young Audiences, all third through fifth grade SALA attendees improved their writing content and structure in pre to post testing. Particularly strong improvements came from students furthest behind their grade level. In addition to the academics, SALA experienced the highest rate of attendance of any elementary summer programming in the district.
Click here for more information on Young Audiences Summer Arts & Learning Academy.
Links to complete Young Audiences and City Schools evaluations:
Written by Barbara Krebs,
Young Audiences volunteer and Sunburst Society member
If you follow education trends even a little, you can’t avoid the STEM acronym. In fact, at many area high schools, getting a slot in the highly popular STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) magnet program is tricky at best.
Why is that? Why do people automatically assume that if you want your student to get ahead in life, your best bet is to seek out an education that prioritizes a STEM-based curriculum over one that values the humanities or visual and performing arts? Now, enrolling in a STEM-focused program is certainly not bad advice. But, it’s definitely not the only path to success as one recent Washington Post article reported.
“Kids have been educated in a computer world. But that computer world continues to threaten traditional jobs, so success will rely on the ability of students to innovate and use tools in a non-traditional way.”
In the article, “The surprising thing Google learned about its employees – and what it means for today’s students,” the Post reported on a 2013 study that Google conducted on its own hiring practices. Its founders, with solid backgrounds in computer science, felt certain that only “technologists can understand technology.” But after every bit of data was gathered and analyzed, the company discovered something unexpected. Of the top eight criteria considered essential for a top employee, STEM expertise rated… um… eighth.
This led to a deeper dive into the data, which ultimately led to Google re-evaluating its employment processes and putting more emphasis on hiring “humanities majors, artists, and even MBAs.” Other companies (such as Chevron and IBM) have also discovered the positives of hiring liberal arts majors because they “prize their ability to communicate.”
On a personal level, I feel very strongly about this. My daughter, Colette, spent seven years (three in middle school and four in high school) pursuing a Performing and Visual Arts education. She learned to sing, dance, act, write, and most importantly from my perspective, think creatively. And while she was singing and acting her way through high school, she was also taking AP Physics and Calculus and learning to wire circuit boards. So it didn’t come as a huge surprise when she enrolled in Engineering as a college freshman.
While some people were shocked at the 180° turn she made, I viewed it as the logical conclusion to a style of learning that she honed as an arts major in high school. Combining a love of math and science with the arts is not as unusual as you might think.
“Finding a path to my final images is a complex choreography of math, my sensibilities as an artist/scientist, and the subtleties of the subject.”
Take, for instance, Dr. Tim Christensen, biology professor at East Carolina University (ECU) and Senior Faculty Fellow in their Honors College (full disclosure – that’s how I first met him, when touring ECU with my daughter, who was accepted into both ECU and their Honors College). Dr. Christensen is primarily a scientist but also an artist. Merging the two disciplines, he fully embraces and personifies the concept of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math).
I was immediately struck while perusing the awe-inspiring galactic photographs on his website, AstroWimp. “As an artist, I’ve been heavily influenced by my scientific training,” he wrote. “To a scientist, images are ‘data.’ Standing in both art and science worlds, I attempt to convey the art of the data.” In his role as teacher, Dr. Christensen transfers the wonder he experiences as a scientist and an artist to his students.
He readily admits that while he finds jumping back and forth between scientific and artistic worlds a natural leap, that is not the case with every scientist. “Some are still wary of anything that can’t be measured scientifically.” Nevertheless, he continues to champion the intersection of science and art, as evidenced in his own artwork. “Finding a path to my final images is a complex choreography of math, my sensibilities as an artist/scientist, and the subtleties of the subject.”
Dr. Christensen is currently collaborating with a fellow faculty member, Daniel Kariko, Associate Professor of Fine Art Photography. Their project, dataSTEAM, “focuses on artists who work directly with scientists to develop a deep understanding of the data, preparing artists to contextualize data in their art, connecting both disciplines… art to science, and science to art.”
Starting in the fall semester, the two will “facilitate collaborations between Art and Honors/Science students” leading to a gallery exhibit at the university. But more important than the exhibition is, of course, the concept of cross-fertilization between the two disciplines.
As Dr. Christensen explained it, “Kids have been educated in a computer world. But that computer world continues to threaten traditional jobs, so success will rely on the ability of students to innovate and use tools in a non-traditional way.” He feels that merging science and art will create students who are quicker to think outside the box and can straddle both the worlds of imagination and hard-core data.
Similarly, what Google has identified as the top characteristics of successful employees are not unlike the same skills that educators and other business leaders identify as being critical to a person’s success in careers, in college, and as a citizen: critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. These are behaviors that Young Audiences’ teaching artists observe and nurture every day among students in arts-integrated classrooms. And so, for those folks who doubt the value of arts integration into core curriculum subjects such as science and math, the, ahem, data demonstrate that arts and science together create a more balanced individual who can successfully work in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing work environment.
But don’t take my word for it, just ask my daughter. In a recent phone call, Colette was excitedly discussing her Statics class. The definition of her Statics class from ECU’s website- the analysis of equilibrium of particles, addition and resolution of forces, equivalent system of forces, equilibrium of rigid bodies, centroid and moment of inertia, structural analysis, internal forces, friction, and virtual work- left my head spinning.
When I commented on the apparent difficulty of the class, she assured me breezily, “Oh Mom, it’s easy for me. After all those arts classes in high school, I can see in 3-D.”