Building Up STEAM

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.”

pam negrin creative stitching
Students at Western High School worked with fiber artist Pam Negrin to stitch the likenesses of important, black, female scientists onto one collaborative work of art.

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).

Dr. Tim Chritsensen’s photograph, Rosette Nebula

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.”

First graders in Young Audience’s Summer Arts & Learning Academy created monsters, then partnered with classmates to write mathematical word problems based on their different numbers of eyes.

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.

YA artist Amanda Pellerin worked with Brooklyn Park Middle School students to create a Cells and Viruses mural that will hang in MedStar Harbor Hospital.

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.

An in-progress section of the ceramic Cells and Viruses mural that artist Amanda Pellerin and Brooklyn Park Middle School students are creating.

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.” 

Meet the Parents

It was a summer filled with activity, singing, dancing, reading, creating, and sunshine. We witnessed the excitement of mastering new skills and discovering new talents. We felt the calm of classrooms illuminated with only the rays of light peeking in from behind drawn shades, students enveloped in peace, quietly drawing, ink and graphite on white paper.

When families initially enrolled their children in our Summer Arts and Learning Academy, we asked them why their child was interested in participating. Many stated that their children were creative and hoped that through the program, they’d be able to enhance their skills. Others emphasized the integrated academics or latent benefits of the arts. Some registrants celebrated the availability of the arts and educational summer program, as these opportunities are limited in Baltimore City.

Students learned to sew and weave with fiber artist Katherine Dilworth at Thomas Jefferson Elementary Middle School.

Did our Summer Arts and Learning Academy live up to families’ expectations? Culmination ceremonies came to a close, classrooms were disassembled and packed up for next year, and students prepared for their next summer adventures. We asked parents and families if they’d give us feedback about their experience by filling out a survey. Their responses poured in- 413 of them to be exact. We discovered that in Summer Arts and Learning Academy, parents watched their children not only learn, but grow and thrive artistically, emotionally, and academically.

When asked about any positive changes they noticed in their kids, one parent replied, “An eagerness to attend school. IN THE SUMMER! Who knew?!”

A student at Coldstream Park Elementary Middle School discovered that she had a talent for working with clay.

87% of families who completed surveys told us that their child found something new that he or she has fun doing. “My son began to enjoy sewing and dancing,” one parent told us. Another let us know that her grandson was very proud of the work he did in ceramics class. “He usually gives me all of his drawings and art projects, but he kept his claywork for himself.”

Even when one particular art form grabbed a student’s interest above all others, the children in Summer Arts and Learning Academy developed a deeper appreciation of and openness to all art. Students discovered that flexibility leads to new passions, discovery, and opportunity. “I learned that I am exceptionally good at ceramics. I knew I would like it but I didn’t know I would actually be good at it,” a rising sixth grader told us. “She was disappointed that the Coldstream Park site didn’t offer theatre for older kids,” her dad explained. “We’re working on ‘rolling with it,’ though, and she ended up really loving African Dance and Ceramics. She would never have known, otherwise.”

Parents told us that their kids were excited to get to the academy every morning, on time. When families reunited in the afternoons, kids would talk and talk about everything they did that day. When asked about any positive changes they noticed in their kids, one parent replied, “An eagerness to attend school. IN THE SUMMER! Who knew?!”

Upwards of 80% of parents who responded told us that they noticed an increase in their child’s reading and math skills. With this strengthening of skills, their children became more confident. Of one student who enjoys writing poetry, we were told, “she will now actually share her writing with others.” Many families reported their children not only enjoying reading but choosing to read books over watching television. Still others described students proudly reading on their own and teaching younger siblings what they had learned.

Visual Arts students at James Mosher Elementary School segmented spaces and filled them with patterns using lines and shapes.

The positive changes parents noticed in their children exemplified 21st Century Skills, a set of higher order skills that have been identified by educators and business leaders as being critical to a person’s success in careers, in college, and as a citizen. These are skills that typically cannot be measured through standardized testing and include critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.

Through Summer Arts and Learning Academy, students were introduced to many new ways of thinking, seeing, and expression. They learned to look at things from different perspectives through the eyes artists, characters in literature, and through new friends, which made their own experiences more joyful and meaningful. Children embraced their curiosity, asking questions, exploring, and researching independently. “My daughter is better able to integrate her love of arts (fun) with learning (not as much fun) and see ways to make learning something that’s both fun and something she can accomplish,” one mom told us.

Students choreographed and performed an original dance for their culminating performance at James Mosher Elementary School.

Families described their students as being more social, friendly, outgoing, and connected. One student told her mom that she “enjoys being a loving and caring friend.” Another student “wants to take care of the neighborhood.” Students discovered that they liked working in groups and parents thought their children were now better able to deal with conflict. Through collaboration, the kids learned how to communicate, compromise, and achieve a common goal. They learned to ‘roll with it’, an enviable and necessary skill for 21st century children and adults alike.

The Inclusive Classroom: Speaking With Our Bodies

skher brown residency

Skher Brown teaches world cultural awareness, body coordination and interpersonal skills through the basics of Capoeira Angola, an African-Brazilian martial art form that is a blend between a dance, game, and self-defense. In his new residency, Capoeira Speaks: Dancing for Social Intelligence and Life Success Skills, students develop non-verbal communication skills through body language and kinesthetic movement. This residency is well-suited for inclusive learning settings and those with behavioral, social, emotional, and/or physical disabilities.

 

“Over 90% of all communication is nonverbal, yet far too little focus is placed on teaching our children how to empathize with others and build relationships. Capoeira Angola is a non-verbal language that uses our bodies to speak instead of our mouths.”

Social intelligence affects how students manage their own behavior, their decision-making process, and how well they are able to navigate social situations. It is, along with academic achievement, one of the greatest predictors of success. Learning to read and respond to body language helps students learn to communicate more effectively, strengthening their social intelligence, thus increasing their chances of success.

“C

apoeira Angola creates a culture of being more aware of one another. It’s communicating all at once with everyone in the room,” Skher explains. “I will say with my movement, ‘I’m about to ask you a question, I need an answer,’ and the student will respond with his or her choice of movement–the ‘answer’. Over 90% of all communication is nonverbal, yet far too little focus is placed on teaching our children how to empathize with others and build relationships. Capoeira Angola is a non-verbal language that uses our bodies to speak instead of our mouths. Once students learn the movements, they come together and begin to have a conversation.”

skher brown residency           skher brown residency            skher brown residency

Capoeira requires students to be very expressive with their entire bodies, including their faces. Participants smile, open their eyes wide, and use animated gestures. These movements help students connect with their own emotions, which translates into being able to recognize and connect to the emotions of others.

Skher Brown

Students take ownership of the new community culture and protect it.”

In Skher’s residency, students take turns observing one another performing the dance movements of Capoeira. “After the dance routine, we form a large circle for participants to look at one another using eye contact. Here, students express what positive observations they noticed about their partners. Then, students share how it felt to give and receive positive reflections. Invariably, though the expressions might start out a little stiff, the mood and classroom environment always turns into a welcoming and connected space. Students take ownership of this new community culture and protect it.”

Skher Brown is one of nine selected roster artists who received training in a variety of inclusion tactics to utilize in the classroom through the Inclusive Allies program in partnership with Disability Rights Maryland. Learn more about our programs for students with special needs and the work we are doing to ensure that all students receive the many benefits of engaging and inclusive arts-integrated classroom experiences.

“You Are All Now 6th Graders!”

Credit: Rebecca Dupas Photography
Credit: Rebecca Dupas Photography

On an early Saturday morning this past fall, Drew Anderson, a hip hop artist, slam poet, screenwriter, producer and veteran school teacher, stood up in front of a sunny classroom filled with teaching artists and commanded:

“You are all now 6th graders!”

That’s how most mock lessons begin at Young Audiences’ Teaching Artist Institute (TAI); a weekend retreat giving Young Audience Teaching Artists and School Teachers the skills they need to maximize the huge potential of arts integration for students in classrooms.

Drew’s bold command at first surprises, but quickly shifts observing teaching artists into the mindset of a student absorbing an unexpected, uncommon classroom experience. A teaching artist himself, Drew asks his “students” to listen to Michael Jackson and break down the beat, eventually re-writing verses with science vocabulary taught by his teacher partner in the classroom, Justin Leonard. The two make an exceptional team, as both have backgrounds in public science education. They smoothly interchange directing the classroom, keeping students engaged – a flow reminiscent of Drew’s own performances on stage.

justin-leonard-and-drew-anderson
Teaching artist Drew Anderson and science teacher Justin Leonard co-teach their mock lesson “Spoof School” for TAI faculty and teaching artists.
taidrewanderson5
Drew Anderson introduces Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as the starting beat.

The experience is one of two Common Core compatible arts-integrated performance residencies Drew created at TAI: “C.R.U.N.K. Academy” and “Spoof School” – bridging his longtime passions for performing and teaching.

Here’s an excerpt from Drew for the first lesson of his residency:

The first step is to pick a good song to spoof. It is important to pick a song that is catchy and easily recognizable with simple lyrics. As technology guru, Mr. Leonard will record and project the students’ suggestions for spoof criteria and will play a few songs asking students to put their thumbs up or down to indicate whether the song would be easy or difficult to spoof. Students defend their responses and the creation of replacement lyrics begins!

“TAI

 forever altered my understanding of what it is to be a  teaching artist.

I learned more than I knew there was to know about arts integration and teaching artistry. I felt utterly enhanced in the realm of mind-shaping magic as if I’d been given a spell book of scholarly sorcery. I learned how to more dynamically apply my art form to educational content, how to break down my creative process for students and teachers, and how to connect my artform to 21st Century Skills, Maryland Art Standards, and the Common Core Curriculum. Every engaging exercise, helpful strategy, and supportive piece of advice from the superb staff and my equally excited peers confirmed that I had found where I belonged.

I am now prepared to convert all the potential energy hidden in classrooms into explosive kinetic energy, using engaging assemblies and super-charged residencies! I’ve been an educator and performing artist for my entire adult life and have observed the changes in both worlds. Gone are the days when students are programmed with rote memorization of stale “facts.” Employers want workers who can think on their feet and on their own. This ever-evolving environment needs young entrepreneurs armed with the creativity to solve problems that have yet to appear. Through its audacity, its abstractions, its “aliveness,” art activates parts of the brain that any teacher or employer should want to turn on. You might find yourself “shocked” at how much electricity comes from the marriage of art and education!”

Young Audiences' Sun

Interested in learning more about TAI? Click here!

Alden Phelps’ New Assembly Offers Hands-on Writing Experience for Entire School Grade

Alden Phelps residency, Singing, Reading and Writing Songs, an Interactive Assembly
Alden’s custom Word Game Box

Young Audiences of Maryland is excited to offer a new and innovative program from one of our roster artists, Alden Phelps, called Singing, Reading & Writing Songs: an Interactive AssemblyAlden Phelps’ new assembly combines the inspiration and fun of a live concert with an extended hands-on time for students to participate in songwriting.

It’s a show and it’s a workshop: Silly Songster Alden Phelps plays guitar and sings his original children’s songs, then leads students step by step as they design their own musical couplets in teams. This hands-on experience is designed for an entire school grade to enjoy together.

Alden Phelps residency at Frederick Adventist Academy
Interactive Assembly at Frederick Adventist Academy

Why is this program so special?

Not only does this program combine the best aspects of an assembly and a classroom workshop, but it also uses a thoroughly engaging inspiration for writing: magnetic words. By physically manipulating magnetic words, roadblocks that inhibit participation (spelling, handwriting, etc.) are removed; new vocabulary is expanded and stimulated; students at different levels can engage meaningfully and achieve writing success in activities that build language skills. Guided exercises, along with teacher support, help students try their hand at lyric writing. Most importantly, it’s a whole lot of fun! The assembly ends as students transform Alden’s opening song into their own original creation. This Interactive Assembly is designed for up to 100 students or one full grade. The assembly is 45 minutes long and is suited for grades 3-5.

How does it work?

Alden sets up 25 magnetic easels in your gym (or suitable space) and 50 of his original boxes of magnetic nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, and rhymes. The program begins with Alden singing an original silly song for the students. He then explains his songwriting technique and breaks down the lyrics to the songs’ chorus on two large magnetic boards. Students are invited up to get creative and rewrite Alden’s rhyming couplet.

In the second half of the program, all the students move to the magnetic easels and continue to get creative, rewriting Alden’s lyrics. Alden circulates through the room, helping students and celebrating their successes by singing along with their newly created lyrics.

The differentiation is built in: basic & special needs students succeed by plugging in verbs, nouns, and rhymes, and the supplied dry-erase magnets allow advanced students to push their writing beyond Alden’s selection of words.

Common Core Connections: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L   CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF

100% Participation!

Alden has spent months developing this new Interactive Assembly, and in its initial performances, every single student in the room participated every time! And not just participated, but gleefully dove in to write their own song lyrics!

Alden Phelps at Sandymount Elementary School
Songwriters enjoy the Interactive Assembly at Sandymount Elementary School

IMG_0654

Mr. Phelps did an excellent job getting even my least interested students involved in this program!  Some of my students who hate to sing REALLY enjoyed this program!! The students were singing their song lyrics for the rest of the day. I highly recommend this program at any school!!”   Frederick Adventist Academy, March 2016

Every single kid that participated LOVED IT!”   Sandymount Elementary School


Alden’s rapport with the kids and level of enthusiasm is contagious! It all channels our students’ focus and involvement in the content he delivers.”   Thunder Hill Elementary School

Q: Who is this Interactive Assembly for?

A: Singing, Reading & Writing Songs: an Interactive Assembly is designed for grades: 3-5, up to 100 students, or one whole grade.

 Q: What about K – grade 2?

A: I’m working on adapting this for beginning readers using magnetic rebus. I think it’s a great idea!

 Q: What about a longer version of this like a residency?

A: I’m working on it! I hope very soon this will be a multi-day residency too!

Learn more about Alden Phelps or schedule a program

AoSL Releases Report Linking Arts-Based Learning to STEM Innovation


Arts Integration in Action! Young Audiences’ Summer Arts & Learning Academy 2nd graders learned math and multiplication through the arts with teaching artist Mama Rashida of Wombwork Productions.

The Art of Science Learning (AoSL), a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded initiative, spearheaded by its Principal Investigator, Harvey Seifter, has released its newest report, titled The Impact of Arts-Based Innovation Training on the Creative Thinking Skills, Collaborative Behaviors and Innovation Outcomes of Adolescents and Adults. The report was written by Audience Viewpoints Consulting, the independent research firm AoSL retained to conduct the study. The effort compared the impacts and outcomes of arts-based innovation training with more traditional innovation training that does not incorporate the arts.

“With this research, we now have clear evidence that arts-based learning sparks creativity, collaboration, emotionally intelligent behavior and innovation in both adolescents and adults,” Seifter said. “The implications for 21st Century learning and workforce development are profound.”

Working with Worcester, MA high school students and early career STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) professionals from San Diego, the results were compiled through a series of experimental studies testing AoSL’s hypothesis: that integrating the arts into STEM innovation training results in enhanced individual creative thinking skills, increased collaborative behaviors, and more robust team innovation outcomes.

The research yielded compelling results; a strong causal relationship does indeed exist between arts-based learning and improved creative thinking skills and innovation outcomes in adolescents, and between arts-based learning and increased emotionally intelligent and collaborative behavior in adults.

Arts-Based Learning Led to Stronger STEM Innovation Outcomes in Adolescents

The study divided participants into control and treatment groups. Both groups used a hands-on project based approach to learning innovation. The treatment curriculum replaced 9 hours of the traditional innovation pedagogy used in the control curriculum with 9 hours of arts-based activities designed to achieve the same learning objectives. The study lasted five weeks.

“Our research provides quantitative evidence that validates what artists, inventors, scientists, technologists, educators, entrepreneurs and humanists have known for thousands of years,” Seifter said: “discovery and innovation happen at the intersection of art, science and learning.”

The research demonstrates that arts-based learning directly strengthens many key 21st Century learning and workforce skills, a finding with numerous immediate and longer-term practical applications for K-12 and post-secondary education, informal learning and workforce development.

Arts-Based Learning Improved Creative Thinking Skills in Adolescents

The data strongly suggests that arts-based learning can help STEM companies to spark high performance innovation teams among a new generation of professionals, and that schools, museums and science centers can create environments that foster creativity, collaboration, innovation and engagement by integrating the arts into STEM learning.

Read the full report and its key findings

——–

About Harvey Seifter
Art of Science Learning was founded by Harvey Seifter 2008, and grows out of his decades of work at the intersection of art, science and learning. In addition to his research work, Seifter brings his arts-based approaches to innovation, leadership development and high performance teamwork to dozens of global corporations, and serves as Visiting Associate Professor of Design, Arts and Cultural Management at Pratt Institute in New York City. He is also a classically trained musician with a 25-year career at the helm of several distinguished arts organizations including Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the Magic Theatre of San Francisco. During his tenure these organizations garnered 5 Grammy Awards, 24 Obie and Critics Circle Awards, and the Kennedy Center Award.

About The Art of Science Learning
The Art of Science Learning (AoSL) is a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded initiative, founded and directed by Harvey Seifter, that uses the arts to spark creativity in science education and the development of an innovative 21st Century STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) workforce. AoSL’s national partners include The American Association for the Advancement of Science, Americans for the Arts and The Association of Science-Technology Centers.

All text Republished with permission from the Art of Science Learning (AoSL)

Ssuuna residency with HotSpots

Innovative Partnership with Young Audiences at Hot Spots

At Young Audiences, we’re always building partnerships with great organizations to help enrich our children’s lives through arts and culture. Hot Spots, a before and after school extended care cultural enrichment program, was a perfect match to do just that. This past spring, Young Audiences partnered with Hot Spots to bring Ugandan culture into the hands and hearts of the entire student body at Lyons Mills Elementary for a special performance dubbed “culminating”.

Traditionally, Hot Spots offers artist residencies for students after school. For this partnership, an effort was led by Hot Spots Executive Director, Emily Gordon, to bring in-depth knowledge and meaningful craft-making to every student and teacher in the school for an entire day of culminating activities!

To facilitate this huge endeavor, Hot Spots chose Young Audiences Teaching Artist and Ugandan native, Ssuuna, a dancer, drummer, singer, and songwriter, to share significant cultural aspects of his home country with the entire school community. Hot Spots’ ultimate goal with YA for the next year is to make these kinds of culminating performances an access point that will reach far beyond a school.

We spoke with Emily Gordon about this unique experience:

“We chose Ssuuna because he is an artist and performer who brings these experiences to life. He shares such enthusiasm and energy and encourages our students to be active learners, not passive. It’s really important that we continue to work with artists who understand how to connect with children at their individual levels as opposed to simply teaching to the masses.”

More from our interview with Emily:

“This partnership is different from how we’ve worked with Young Audiences in the past. The majority of our past work has been for students who participate in after-school programs and residencies. A culminating performance typically happens only with the students in the program. We are thrilled to be expanding that reach.

For this residency, we sent out lesson plans to every educator in the school with pre-assembly activities to support the experience with Ssuuna. Students memorized Ugandan vocabulary, researched facts about Ugandan every-day life, and learned about the musical instruments they would build in tandem with the performance later that day.

Ssuuna residency with HotSpots
Ssuuna drumming with students at Lyons Mills Elementary

                               Ssuuna in Hot Spots residency     Ssuuna drumming at HotSpots residency

“This wasn’t a ‘come drop off your students at an assembly’ type of day.”

Teachers made sure they understood what the assembly was about and prepared questions for Ssuuna to answer. We didn’t only focus on Ugandan music and dance; while grades third through fifth began the assembly watching a solo dance performance by Ssuuna and preparing questions, students K-2 sat down in small groups with Hot Spots teachers to create an Ensaasi, a Ugandan shaker. Rather than having them simply color in a pattern, Ssuuna identified forms of tribal art with cultural significance for design inspiration. From there, third through fifth-grade classes went back to the classroom and created Ugandan jewelry from different types of tribal wooden and plastic beads.

The success of this culminating day of activities reflects a desire to engage students differently with Teaching Artists. With assemblies, students are not able to stop and ask questions during a performance, and later they get forgotten. After Ssuuna had performed for 30 minutes, there was a fantastic Q & A session! Kids could ask Ssuuna anything based on what they had seen or read earlier in the day. We wanted to give them that forum, letting them express what they didn’t understand. Ssuuna is such an amazing artist who can explain and relate to students not only his experience in America but his roots in Uganda. That unique connection helps reveal why his story is so relevant and compelling for students.

Another big part of this new model is encouraging not only our students, but the parents, families, and neighborhood to get involved. How do we make sure this experience can be expanded into the home? To extend our outreach, we shared photos and videos of the performance and activities in a short newsletter blast to every parent in the school. Included in the newsletter were extension activities and follow-up questions like this social media challenge:

Teach your family how to make Ugandan jewelry and take a picture of you and your family wearing it! Then, take a video of you and your family playing your shakers!

We really appreciate this unique opportunity to partner with Young Audiences. YA is a critical component of our efforts and we are excited to replicate and improve this program next year!”

Growing Up Green: The Life Cycle of Plants

Growing Up Green: Teaching Our Youngest Learners Environmental Citizenship Through the Arts

Part One: The Life Cycle of Plants

Growing Up Green

We think with our hands, and when students are immersed in a lesson together, they begin to make their own connections.”

We are in the midst of pilot programming for Prince George’s County Public School’s new arts integration initiative—Growing Up Green, a Kindergarten-level, environmental literacy program. The initiative, part of an exciting new partnership between Young Audiences/Arts for Learning, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and Prince George’s County Public Schools, is funded in part by a BGE Green Grant and the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

The program engages kindergartners in meaningful and authentic outdoor experiences that connect them to their local ecosystems and inspire them to protect our environment. The arts provide the vehicle that the students use to demonstrate and communicate their learning to the greater learning community of their school.

Growing Up Green

Growing Up Green residencies are divided into four major themes—Habitats, Local Ecosystems, The Life Cycle of Animals, and The Life Cycle of Plants.

One of the first YA teaching artists to pilot this program was textile artist Pam Negrin. Pam chose “The Life Cycle of Plants” for her residency with the Kindergarten class at Rockledge Elementary School. “One of the tenants of this initiative is just getting kids outside!” With cuts to recess, these residencies provide purposeful outdoor experiences that directly engage students with their surroundings and sharpen their observation skills.

Along with being outside, one of Pam’s favorite things about Growing Up Green is “giving students a chance to experience wonder.” She and the students had several surprises while exploring the hidden parts of plants everyone gathers at the beginning of the residency. After reading about what constitutes a “fruit,” students sort their treasures—dandelion, sweet gum fruit, crepe myrtle seed, milkweed—into the appropriate plant life phase: seed, seedling, mature plant, flower, or fruit. The students loved playing a game where they had to accurately categorize collected plant life alongside familiar food found in a grocery store by exclaiming “fruit!” or “not fruit!”

Growing Up Green

Early on in the pilot program, students gathered an assortment of “fruits” resembling spiky balls that fall from sweet gum trees. Even though most attempt to avoid these prickly pods, the students gave no hesitation in cracking them open to find hundreds of seeds! Once the plants were sorted, the students began to observe and draw each part. Using their original drawings as a visual guide, and after learning some basic embroidery stitches, they collectively stitched a large-scale embroidery depicting the life cycle of plants. “Kids are stitching around the table with each other, working in groups, exploring together. Really, collaboration is another strong aspect of Growing Up Green,” says Pam. “We think with our hands, and when students are immersed in a lesson together, they begin to make their own connections.”

Growing Up Green

Ultimately, Growing Up Green can naturally make children stewards of the environment, “not because we taught them preservation is important in a textbook, but because they were outside experiencing it for themselves.” Pam adds, “this residency reminded me that the more immersed I can be in what the students are learning in their core curriculum, and the more I experience the wonder and excitement of that learning, the more I have to share with my students and the stronger the arts integration.”

Growing Up Green

The program also provides teachers the tools to creatively engage students in curriculum-based learning through arts integration long after the residency has ended. In fact, one of Growing Up Green’s primary missions is to ensure the program’s long-term sustainability in the classroom. Once the residency ends, the arts integration techniques that were taught during the residency help teachers to more accurately and confidently employ environmentally based learning strategies into their current lesson plans. Ideally, once the piloting phase of the program is complete, Growing Up Green will become embedded into the core science and social studies curriculum of Prince George’s County Public Schools.

By partnering with the Chesapeake Bay Trust to arm schools with relevant, local environmental data to meet district-level standards, and by doing our part to provide teaching artists and professional development in arts integration, this program could not be more equipped to succeed.

Video: Growing Up Green @ Rockledge Elementary

Growing Up Green aligns with Environmental Literacy Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core State Standards, and Visual Arts Standards.

Drawing it out

Cyan and Danyett in Nov 2014
Cyan McMillian, seventh-grade student, with Danyett Tucker, Young Audiences visual artist.

By Cyan McMillian, seventh-grade student, Windsor Hills Elementary/Middle

My name is Cyan McMillian and I am a seventh grader at Windsor Hills. I’d rather throw a football than paint my nails (seriously). I felt like a free spirit until my tenth birthday–which was the worst day ever. I was excited but made the mistake of not bringing enough cupcakes for the whole class. One girl–the drama queen–decided to take out her frustrations on me. She waited until we got in the cafeteria and took a mixture of yogurt, milk, juice, and water and poured it over my head in front of everyone. On my birthday! Everyone who saw it laughed. Even the adults. I was so hurt and embarrassed that I ran out of the cafeteria in tears.

I never wanted any friends after that. The more I tried to be myself the more I would get picked on. Bullies targeted me for all the ways that I was different–my weight, my clothes, and my love for school.

My parents signed me up for the Baltimore City summer learning academy, the summer before middle school started. I like math and science, but I was most interested in the art classes provided by Young Audiences. See, I don’t get to enjoy the liberties of art during the school year. Having art every day during the summer was a treat because I got to make new friends, I learned how to use the color wheel, how to make 2D pictures become 3D pictures.

Cyan sharing her story at the Impact Breakfast.

Watch Cyan share her story at Young Audiences’ Impact Breakfast event earlier this month!

My art class was taught by Young Audiences teaching artist, Danyett Tucker. She played a song by Lauryn Hill called “Everything is Everything,” and asked us to illustrate what the lyrics meant to us. I love that song. It was like math because my hands and brain were working at the same time to solve a problem. I was able to express myself without being judged in a way that was fun and challenging. I learned from Ms. D that there is no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to art.

Ms. D believed in me and gave me the confidence to believe in myself. She let me come to her when I needed someone to talk to and gave me helpful advice when I was stuck. I was free to be who I am again, which made me feel like my old happy-go-lucky free-spirited self.

Ms. D inspired me to keep drawing after the program was over. My dad loves to draw and after that summer we started drawing together. When I found out the summer program was going to happen again this summer, I found out where Ms. D was teaching and signed up. This summer was even better because not only did I get art with Ms. D, other artists also helped teach the science and math classes. I learned how ratios relate to music and how dance movements connect with science.

In Ms. D’s class, we created a mural that’s displayed here today illustrating Maya Angelou’s poem, “A Brave and Startling Truth.” The poem was confusing at first but the more we read it as a class it became easier to understand and inspired me to speak out about the positive and negative things that happen around me. I was able to use my voice through illustration again. I attended this program every single day and now I have two murals in my portfolio.

Cyan McMillian quote Nov 2014

Now when I feel like I have something to express but don’t know how to say it, I draw it out. Thanks to Young Audiences, I have learned a lot about myself. I’m more observant and I know what a real friend is. I know who I am. So what if I’m not a girly girl, I’m fast and I can handle my business. When they call my clothes trashy, I don’t let it bother me because their shiny white sneakers always end up dirty in a few days. And when they talk about my weight, like the song “All About That Bass” says: “Every inch of me is perfect from the bottom to the top!”

Last year I had the highest grade point average in middle school and it is still sky-high. I have a scholarship to any college that I want. I plan to get a PhD and work for NASA. Thanks to the support of my family, a few good friends, and the Young Audiences artists who understand me like a parent would, I am going for my dreams. And while the summer program is over, what I learned from Ms. D, that “Everything is Everything,” will stay with me forever. What that means to me is that if you want to be something and you work hard, you will most likely become that. So keep an eye out for me.

Baltimore Improv Group at YA Summer Camp

Celebrating Failure: Lessons learned in a sixth-grade classroom

Baltimore Improv Group at YA Summer Camp

By Stacie Sanders Evans, Young Audiences/Arts for Learning Executive Director

Last week I visited the classroom of teaching artist and improv master Bridget Cavaiola and science teacher Heather Tuttle, who are teacher partners in our 22nd Century Pioneers Arts-Based Summer Camp in West Baltimore. Like in all of our classes, these two teachers were “starting with the art” by warming up brains and bodies with the drama game “Big Booty.” This particular game required kids to call on each other using a number instead of their name, and the goal of the game was to keep the it going as long as possible and as quickly as possible, without someone “messing up” by forgetting who had what number. (I realize this description doesn’t explain why this game is called Big Booty but just stick with me here…)

The first time a student messed up in Big Booty, everyone clapped. I wasn’t sure what was going on but smiles ensued and the game started over. Quickly another kid forgot which number they were and when their number was called, the game stalled. Once again everyone clapped and Bridget looked over at me to clue me in and said, “We celebrate our failures in here.” The game continued, and as the kids’ brains warmed up and the fear of making a mistake in front of their peers dissipated, the need to clap wasn’t as frequent. When they did clap, they laughed, they shrugged it off, and they quickly moved on.

When it came time to move on to the science lesson, the teachers wanted to recap the lesson from the day before about the engineer design process. Bridget realized she had mistakenly erased the board which had listed all the key terms shared yesterday and Heather realized she forgot her notebook for reference. Oops! I don’t think the situation could have been better orchestrated, in that moment Bridget and Heather, modeled “the way” by shrugging off their mistake and asked the class, “What can we do?”

Baltimore Improv Group workshop at YA summer learning site

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

The kids immediately started calling out the key terms they learned the day before. “Imagine!” “Investigate!” “Test!” In a quick minute all the key terms were there. I noticed each term was delivered with a gesture. The day before, the students came up with a move that conveyed the essence of each word. This lesson recap evolved into sixth-grade boys and girls (remember those awkward years?) moving their arms, hands, and heads in space as they defined the engineer design process.

Bridget and Heather and their sixth-graders are onto something. The simple act of celebrating failure creates a safe space for trying something, even if you are unsure if you are right or if you might look silly. Just imagine what is possible when you remove that fear–real opportunities for exploration, experimentation, reflection, and growth emerge.

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

New National Core Arts Standards launched

Core Arts Stand

Last month, the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards introduced the new National Core Arts Standards. Developed through the collaboration of arts organizations, teaching artists, teachers, and practitioners, these standards aim to uphold the quality of teaching and learning.

Originally published in 1994, the National Core Arts Standards were the nation’s first guidelines for arts education. Since then, they have led arts education through growth in design, delivery, and assessment. Recent surveys, however, had shown that priorities of education policy as well as instructional resources and practices of arts educators have significantly changed since the standards’ initial publication, leading to a need for revision.

Thousands of artists, teachers, and arts educators, as well as three reviews from the public, helped to create the new National Core Arts Standards. We are proud to note that the Young Audiences Arts for Learning National Office played a significant role in writing the standards. Young Audiences also managed the creation of the new standards’ website.

After two years of development, the new standards and website were officially launched on June 4. While the newly implemented standards were closely built off of those published 20 years ago, they also show significant growth. The revision includes an emphasis on communication and collaboration, two 21st Century Skills now stressed by higher education and employers.

The new Core Arts Standards also supplement the original four artistic disciplines of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts with a fifth: media arts. This encompasses such mediums as film, animation, and gaming or interactive- and computer-based art making. The new standards also support the development of artistic literacy by encouraging students to independently take part in four artistic processes: creating, performing/producing/presenting, responding, and connecting. These processes can be seen in the 11 Anchor Standards that are common across all five art forms.

Questions about the new standards? Visit Young Audiences’ National Core Arts Standards FAQ.

Working to bring the arts to every student

Kwame

By Dr. Sherrie Norwitz, Instrumental String Music Teacher, Thomas Jefferson Elementary Middle

Art and aesthetics are crucial to the foundation of society. Arts education provides children the opportunity to be exposed to–and develop their own–appreciation of beauty in their world. Art is a way to transmit the values of the society. Through the arts, children learn about their community, helping to provide them with a context for their lives within their communities, and become active participants in helping to create their communities. Arts experiences open doors to children, allowing them to say, “I am touched by this. I am a part of this beauty. I created this. I shared my creation. This has meaning to me.”

Sequential education in the arts is a crucial component in a child’s education. Learning about and through the arts gives students ownership of skills and knowledge to become active participants in society through creative expression and communication.

It is important to me for students to experience the integration of the arts across the curriculum and the varying natural connections that are inherent between the arts and their core curriculum subjects. This arts integration approach supports the learning of core curriculum subjects, reaches a wide-range of learners, provides authentic real world experiences that directly involve students in the act of creating, provides opportunities for collaboration, and supports the development of 21st Century Skills through the Common Core and Career Ready Standards.

Through our partnerships with Arts Every Day and Young Audiences, our school community is finding its way in creating a comprehensive arts integration program. With the support of our principal, Ms. Henry, we feel that we have a very strong foundation for our program’s growth and development.

This year we began by extending the arts-integrated approach to learning beyond the artist-in-residence program which we had previously brought to our students. Working with Young Audiences, we created a Resident Teaching Artist position for the year to allow for the continued presence of a teaching artist within our school. Our Resident Teaching Artist, Young Audiences artist Kwame Opare, performed with his ensemble, DishiBem G.R.O.W. during school-wide assemblies, and provided workshops to fifth- through eighth-grade students. Kwame also provided our teachers professional development in arts integration to help answer their questions, provide guidance, calm apprehensions, and worked with teachers during collaborative teaching days to bring arts integration directly to the students in their classrooms.

Partnering with Young Audiences to provide such a variety of programs throughout the year ensured that we incorporated arts integration best practices and included all of our grade levels–preschool to grade 8–in these art experiences. Being an International Baccalaureate School (IB) also helped support our way forward in the interdisciplinary learning of arts integration.

Arts integration and arts-enhanced learning is happening in many ways in different classes. Among our activities, students have drawn Grecian vases as part of their Ancient Civilizations unit, they have dramatized stories through dance, applied music notation to learning fractions, used music to help understand number columns, made connections between literature and music while dancing “The Nutcracker,” and created a paper Freedom Quilt.

We have developed a rhythm of arts integration at Thomas Jefferson. We are working to create an environment where everywhere you look, the arts are happening, where the arts are for everyone at the school and where connections with the arts can be made throughout a student’s day. Having a sense of continuity of arts experiences helps create a feeling of expectation of such experiences for both students and teachers. There is a developing sense school-wide that the arts and arts integration “is what we do.” We look to have the arts not as “special” but as a continuing presence in our daily school life, where learning can take place through the arts. There is something for everyone–for students in all grades covering a variety of subjects, and for teachers to feel supported with our teaching artists and our partnerships with Arts Every Day and Young Audiences.

Artistic energy invigorates the school environment, developing our professional skills as teachers and invigorating learning for students.

Thomas Jefferson Elementary Middle School is an IB World School, an Arts Every Day School, and a Maryland Green School. Learn more online here.