Step by Step: The Power of the Arts

Written by Barbara Krebs,
Young Audiences volunteer and Sunburst Society member

As a pair of dancers performed, a group of elementary school children sat, crisscross applesauce, watching their every move. Valerie Branch, a dancer and choreographer with Young Audiences had been working with the Belle Grove Elementary students in an artist residency made possible through the Arts Empowered Minds Initiative (AEMI). When the last notes faded away, Valerie asked the children what they had observed.

“They love each other,” one child offered.

“They share,” another chimed in.

Valerie Branch and a student from Belle Grove Elementary School demonstrating a “weight bearing” dance technique for the audience.

Then she asked the kids to explain what dancing techniques they had witnessed. “Negative space,” “weight sharing,” and “weight bearing” were some of the answers shouted out.

Next, she gathered a group of her second-grade students to pair off with each other to demonstrate some of those concepts. Once the children had done so, half of the students were instructed to use a frozen pose in a high, medium, or low position. The rest were to react to whatever their partner had created. With the new poses in place, she asked the other children in the assembly to discuss what they saw and how the partners had related to one another.

And, in true arts integration form, this exercise was not just about learning dance terminology and positions, but was tied to lessons at the school. This particular one was used in conjunction with a poetry-writing assignment in which the children described themselves through the creation of “I am” poems. Later, choreography was added to illustrate their autobiographical poetry.

Such was the back-and-forth learning that observers witnessed at the Arts Empowered Minds Announcement Event and Celebration on Friday, March 8. The group of educators, politicians, state and local arts administrators, and volunteers gathered at the school was celebrating a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which will be used to expand arts integration and teacher professional development in Northern Anne Arundel County.

Pictured counter-clockwise from top left: YA President & CEO Stacie Sanders Evans, Matt Barinholtz of FutureMakers, AEMI Teacher Liaison Betsy Brininger, and Lacey Sheppard, AACPS Arts Integration Teacher Specialist

This is the third time that the NEA has awarded Young Audiences, the program’s managing partner, a grant for AEMI. This collaborative partnership between a wide array of arts and education organizations throughout Anne Arundel County seeks to “address the disparity in arts access–and associated gaps in student achievement–between students in Northern Anne Arundel County and the rest of the county.”

Arts Integration Teacher Mika Nakano (left) and Brittany Roger (right)

Now in its third year, AEMI has already racked up an impressive set of statistics. But even better than the numbers are the inspiring stories that teachers and administrators had to share during the event. Brittany Roger, a teaching artist with a scientific illustration background, spoke of bringing exotic animals (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, iguanas, corn snakes) to the classroom and allowing children to explore the creatures through sight, sound, touch, and smell. Afterward, the students draw and sketch the animals based on their observations.

Amy Goodman, who heads the math department at North County High School, told of her department’s initial skepticism about linking arts and math together. But as the teachers learned arts integration techniques and applied them in the classroom, they began to see students who had been turned off or struggling with math begin to make connections that helped them grasp the concepts they needed to learn.

Dr. Maureen McMahon,  Deputy Superintendent for Academics & Strategic Initiatives for Anne Arundel County Public Schools

And so, step by step, AEMI partners create opportunities for children to learn through the arts. Step by step, the Initiative changes minds about the importance of integrating the arts with reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. And, step by step, it makes converts of those who witness how the arts engage young minds and help them stay, not only focused on their education, but truly inspired to learn.

Learn more about the Arts Empowered Minds Initiative, its collective impact partners and the community it serves by visiting artsempoweredminds.org.

Arts Empowered Minds Initiative

Arts Empowered Minds Initiative: Prioritizing Children and Learning

Written by Barbara Krebs,
Young Audiences volunteer and Sunburst Society member

It’s all about priorities. There are only 24 hours in a day, and as a busy person, you have to prioritize the most important things. I could tell that this principal really wanted to talk about the Arts Empowered Minds Initiative (AEMI), Young Audiences, and how arts-based learning was impacting his school. That’s because, despite the week-long game of telephone and email tag we played just before the start of the new school year, he kept contacting me to set up the next potential interview time. Happily, I finally connected with Rodney Walker, principal of Brooklyn Park Elementary School in Northern Anne Arundel County.

But first–what is AEMI? According to its website, it is “a collective impact initiative that utilizes the arts to improve school achievement, parent involvement, and student engagement and empathy in Northern Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS).” That collective involves more than a half dozen organizations selected for, among other things, their “expertise in the arts, education, or both.”

Detail of a science mural students in Northern Anne Arundel County created as part of a residency made possible through the Arts Empowered Minds Initiative.

So when I spoke to Principal Walker, I was curious as to how his school had become involved, how the partnership worked in his school, and what his observations of its impact were. Brooklyn Park Elementary had become an AEMI school about three years ago when he received info about the group from AACPS’ Central Office. When he met with AEMI staff and learned of their mission and partnerships, he knew that it would be a “natural fit” for his school. He liked the idea that it “gives kids different opportunities to expand their learning. It exposes them to different art genres and focuses on creative ways to teach core subjects.”

Over the summer, Principal Walker attended one of Young Audiences’ tours of Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA), which was specifically geared towards introducing principals to the program. Having toured SALA earlier in the summer myself, I wondered how his experience as an educator differed from mine.

In one arts-integrated Algebra residency, students created poems using math terms.

Like me, he was impressed with the fourth-grade classroom he observed using a rap song to learn math concepts. We both noticed how much fun the kids were having while they were learning, a crucial element in creating positive learning experiences.

But as a long-term educator, he noticed something that I had missed. “Sometimes our kids have difficulty in learning the math vocabulary. Here, they’re connecting because they’re having fun. But in the process, the kids are becoming leaders. They’re holding themselves accountable.” In other words, it was the children who were helping to create a positive classroom culture. Of course, the teachers were guiding it, but by empowering their students, the kids took ownership and were self-motivated.

As part of the Arts Empowered Minds initiative, teachers and artists partner to design arts-integrated lessons under the guidance of master teachers and teaching artists.

Principal Walker’s assessment of the learning techniques he witnessed was “phenomenal,” but how will this translate back on the ground at Brooklyn Park Elementary? With AEMI’s focus on arts-based learning and its links to other arts/education groups, Principal Walker sees a continued focus on “creating a safe space for learning and exploration.”

“We will continue to work with AEMI, Young Audiences, and its partners to add professional development for our teachers, and incorporate new and creative ways to add arts-based learning into our writing and math classes.”

AEMI’s priority is to “increase access to high-quality, arts-integrated learning opportunities…” Though it’s not always easy to quantify any particular program’s impact, there is one thing that Principal Walker is absolutely certain of. That’s the “happy faces” he sees during assemblies with an arts orientation.

As Principal Walker’s enthusiasm for AEMI and its partners show, I suspect that arts-focused education will continue to be a priority at Brooklyn Park Elementary School.

The Arts Empowered Minds Initiative is the combined effort of many groups and individuals seeking to build a movement for increased equity through the arts in their community. With funding from the NEA in 2016, we built partnerships with Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS), Chesapeake Arts Center (CAC), Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance (AEMS), Arts Council of Anne Arundel County, and University of Maryland – Baltimore County (UMBC).

Young Audiences Arts for Learning Maryland

Young Audiences Hires New Chief Operating Officer, Creates New Director of Summer Learning Position

Young Audiences, the statewide nonprofit that boosts student achievement by bringing arts integration into classrooms and children’s learning experiences, has hired Leyla Layman as its new Chief Operating Officer.

Former Young Audiences COO Kurtis Donnelly will remain with the organization, taking on the newly created role of Director of Summer Learning, to enhance and expand Young Audiences’ summer programming and impact.

Leyla Layman is a career public servant, most recently serving as Deputy Executive Director, Operations and Chief of Staff for the Maryland Department of Human Services’ Child Support Administration where she managed strategic initiatives to increase program effectiveness and worked to identify and create systems to improve operating efficiency.

“Working to improve outcomes for children and communities has been the primary focus of my career,” said Layman. “Young Audiences offers an innovative approach of using the arts to keep children interested in learning. I am honored and excited to become part of the team.”

Previously, Layman was Director of the Baltimore City Health Department’s Office of Youth Violence Prevention and was responsible for program oversight, expansion, and evaluation.Under her leadership, youth outreach increased by 150%.

“Leyla’s experience working with communities, families and local institutions made her an ideal candidate for our COO,” said Stacie Sanders Evans, Young Audiences President and CEO. “Welcoming a uniquely talented, proven leader like Leyla will allow our organization to connect with more children, sparking their passions with arts-integrated learning. I’m excited to work with her.”

Kurtis Donnelly’s transition to Director of Summer Learning comes as Young Audiences expands its focus on year-round learning, implementing and growing programs in the summer. In his nearly three years as COO, Donnelly streamlined the success of Young Audiences’ Summer Arts & Learning Academy while implementing and coordinating all of Young Audiences programming.

“Kurtis’ leadership and understanding of how arts-integrated summer learning can be effective puts Young Audiences in a great position for continued success,” said Sanders Evans. “Engaging children in ways that make learning fun is crucial to uncovering opportunities for positive development and growth. I’m incredibly thankful that Leyla and Kurtis are here to help build on Young Audiences’ work doing just that.”

“Working to improve outcomes for children and communities has been the primary focus of my career,” said Layman. “Young Audiences offers an innovative approach of using the arts to keep children interested in learning. I am honored and excited to become part of the team.”

Young Audiences' Sun

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 over 7,000 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.

Bomani

Bomani Brings Hip Hop Poetry to Young At Heart

smARTbeats returns to WTMD this Saturday, July 8, during the weekly children’s music program Young At Heart. On this month’s smARTbeats segment, Young At Heart host Lisa Mathews sits down for a chat with Bomani. A seasoned performer, teaching artist, Director of Poetry Events for the Busboys and Poets restaurants, CBS Radio personality, and head audio-engineer for Urban-Intalek Studios, Bomani describes himself as a poet with a Hip Hop style.

Bomani in the WTMD studio with host Lisa Mathews.

During the segment, you’ll get a taste of Baba Bomani’s Hip Hop poetry as well as hear about his experience in the classroom. The artist teaches creative writing and prose through the exciting world of Hip Hop songwriting. By first creating a fearless, supportive and collaborative environment, he instructs children to use elements of creative writing including simile, metaphor, and rhyme to structure a song written in the pattern of a well-written essay. “Young people need to have freedom to develop an idea out loud without self-doubt and to not fear right or wrong answers,” Bomani says.

Kindergarteners in Prince George’s County Public Schools wrote poetry with Bomani as part of the district’s Growing Up Green initiative.

“At the beginning of a residency, there are three writing rules I give students: Artists don’t make mistakes, they make discoveries; Do not edit in your head; The only wrong answer is a blank answer.”

“One of the reasons I love group creative-writing sessions is because the conversations that go on in a group setting are the same internal conversations that go on in a writer’s head. Showing that process to young people in a physical way, where they are acting out how ideas are communicated — ‘what about this idea, what about that idea, we should take this back, we should add that in there!’ — helps them to better understand complicated topics.”

Young At Heart airs weekly from 7 to 8 am on Saturdays, featuring music that appeals to parents and children alike. Previous shows have featured music by Wilco, David Bowie, Andrew & Polly, Weezer, and others.

Hear YA teaching artist and composer Bomani online now!

Arts Budgets, Job Creation, and the NEA

Written by Barbara Krebs, a Young Audiences volunteer and Sunburst Society member

With all the talk of entirely eliminating funding for organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) from the federal budget, a recent Washington Post Magazine article caught my attention. The June 11, 2017 issue featured a boldly colored cover and the caption, “Is Arts Funding Essential or Wasteful? We traveled the country to find out.”

I was especially intrigued since one of the arts projects they highlighted was in Wilson, NC – where I lived as a teenager. I admit that I haven’t been back in many years, but I had heard from friends that the town had fallen on hard times as tobacco warehouses (once the backbone of the economy) closed down.

The article opened with the development of Whirligig Park, which is dedicated to the artwork created by Vollis Simpson, who fashioned giant whirligigs out of scrap metal that he collected from his day job of transporting houses and heavy machinery. Before his death in 2013, Simpson had gained quite a following; the man and his artwork had been featured in publications that range from The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, and the Smithsonian Magazine, among many.

As I read the Post article, it highlighted how the NEA had been “an early believer in the civic power of Simpson’s creations.” With the help of the organization and its grants, locals also began seeing the possibilities – to draw tourists and their dollars to Wilson – and skeptics gradually became believers. People who had originally viewed Simpson’s whirligigs as junk now began to see how the arts could help revitalize a moribund downtown.

But just as all politics is local, so too are the arts.  You focus on where you live.  With that in mind, a quick check of the NEA web site revealed that in the Fall of 2016, 19 grants, totaling $520,000, were awarded to a variety of Maryland arts groups. And while these groups range widely in mission and artistic focus, two things stood out:  1) how many of these groups reach out with the arts to educate and 2) these NEA grants create much-needed jobs.

Over the years NEA support has made it possible for Young Audiences to reach children in every county in our state…

Under the education category, award recipients include the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids program, which provides Baltimore City Public School students with a music and mentorship program; Wide Angle Youth Media, Inc., which teaches students how to share their voices through media arts education; The National Association of Black Storytellers, Inc., whose Adopt-A-Teller Program places African American storytellers in schools for performances and workshops to share and preserve the rich heritage of the African Oral Tradition; Arts on the Block (AOB) who provides teens in and around Montgomery County real-world work experiences through the arts; and World Arts Focus in Mount Rainier, for a program developed improve the health, identity, and independence of teenagers and adults with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or other disabilities through dance.

Over the years NEA support has made it possible for Young Audiences to reach children in every county in our state and has provided consistent support for teaching artist training, ensuring that our programs are not only accessible and affordable to underserved students, but are of high quality and enhance the curriculum of our schools.

What about the job creation category?  Here are a few thoughts on the economic impact of the arts in our communities.

  • Employment opportunities – we’re not just talking artists and dancers here. The arts also employ carpenters, electricians and many other technical and administrative jobs needed to produce showcases, exhibitions and museum presentations.
  • Arts education – at Young Audiences we see every day, firsthand, what a huge impact the arts have in helping students connect to reading, math, and science. Educated youth become educated adults with jobs that create a tax base.
  • Tourism – Many struggling small towns, and even larger cities, have boosted the local economy by creating arts zones, which draw in tourists, which, in turn, creates the need for restaurants, hotels, and other tourist-oriented businesses.

So what lesson can we take from all this? I think it is simply that the arts do matter – a lot.  The arts help create and maintain vibrant community ties, which in turn translates into real economic impact. Before the Post Magazine article caught my eye, I had read an article in the April 2017 issue of Our State, Celebrating North Carolina. I read about 217 Brew Works, which opened last November, hmm, across the street from Whirligig Park.  Tourists certainly enjoy the proximity of the brewery to the park, but more importantly, locals are the true economic boosters – coming down to talk, to relax and to enjoy their community’s new meeting spot.

It’s also worth noting that when the arts are supported, great synergies are created. For example the Our State article ended with, “another developer has moved forward with plans to create Whirligig Station – apartments, restaurants, and some office space – in an empty red-brick tobacco warehouse on another edge of the park.”

Far from being an unnecessary frill as some critics of the NEA portray it, what is readily apparent is how many small communities discovered an economic lifeline from the grants that the NEA provides. The closed factory, the shuttered mill, the abandoned plant are sadly a fact of life in too many small towns.   But as many of them have discovered, there are opportunities here as well. Who knows what might happen in your community when you combine artistic vision, a good beer, and an NEA grant?

Our Board of Directors: Bravely Creating Opportunities for our Students

We are reminded every day of the irreplaceable support we receive from those who share in our mission to transform the lives and education of Maryland students through arts experiences. From teachers and teaching artists to principals, parents, and donors, our list of allies is long. And because of our allies, the reach of our impact is wide and growing even wider.

“Thanks to our amazing staff and board, and to our supporters, including our Sunburst Society, our outreach has grown by 400%,” executive director, Stacie Sanders Evans, announced at the crowded Impact Breakfast last week. “Last year, we reached 191,000 students at nearly 500 schools with 225,000 hours of inspired learning! Also, we trained 1,096 teachers in arts-integrated instruction – so that means this kind of learning takes place even when our artists aren’t in schools.”

Alan Hoff, Board Member and chair of Major Gifts Committee (center)
Tea Carnell, Board Member
Kiati Plooksawasdi, Board Member (right)
Eric M. Pripstein, Board Treasurer (center)

Our teaching artists live and breathe our mission through their work in classrooms every day. And that’s just the beginning. While they may fly under the radar, our board of directors includes 23 of the most engaged, hands-on leaders and supporters we could hope for. Their commitment is extraordinary. Our board members can be found supporting our work in any number of ways including authoring blog posts, hosting On The Brightside events or leading full-day staff and teaching artist trainings. You may find them meeting with potential sponsors over lunch, inviting colleagues to our events, learning dance routines with their co-workers from a teaching artist, or even volunteering to make sock-puppets at our Family Engagement Night!

Candice Buckner, Board Member (left)
Catherine Pierre, Board Member (right)
Thomas J. Sessa, Board President (right)

Our board members are proud of the work we all do and they are eager to say so. “Arts integration is when the arts are drilled down into an academic curriculum in a thoughtful and meaningful way – and that is what puts the ‘Arts for Learning’ in our name and what makes Young Audiences/Arts for Learning so exceptional,” explained board member Tea Carnell at the Impact Breakfast. “What do the arts bring to a curriculum? Creativity, joy, and expression are the obvious ones. Arts integration brings mastery, perseverance, insight, focus, understanding, reflection, and problem solving.”

It is this passion for arts integration and the desire to reach all children that drives each one of us at Young Audiences, but we wouldn’t be able to do the work we do, and we wouldn’t be able to reach the children we reach, without the unwavering support of our board members. “We are at this incredible moment in time. We have the evidence our programs work. We have a school system that is asking for help. All we need to do is bravely create the opportunities we know students need,” Stacie Sanders Evans told supporters. “Young Audiences, its incredible artists, everyone in this room – YOU – can close the gaps for our young people.”

Board Secretary Randy Osteen (left) and Board Member Julie Medalis (center)

And you are. Because of you, we not only met, we surpassed our Impact Breakfast’s fundraising goal. From the bottom of our hearts, we extend a sincere thank you to our board, to Alan Hoff, chair of our major gifts committee, and to each and every one of our wonderful supporters. Visit yamd.org to learn more about the programs we offer and how you can help us reach even more children.

Celebrate Earth Day with songs by students

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In honor of Earth Day, we wanted to share some songs written last month by Hollywood Elementary second- and third-graders with teaching artist Sue Trainor during her residency at the school. During the program, students composed original songs about what they had learned about ecosystems, environmentalism, and recycling. Each of the seven participating classes performed their final piece for the other grades and parents. Take a moment to listen to some of the creative and fun songs they came up with!

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/31529819″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

You can also find the songs on Soundcloud. Please share them with your networks in celebration of Earth Day!

Looking for an arts program that connects to environmental science for your students? Use Young Audiences’ searchable program database to easily find programs that align with specific Curriculum Connections.

Let’s celebrate arts education year-round

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Earlier this week, Young Audiences roster theatre ensemble Single Carrot Theatre joined our celebration of National and Maryland YA Week with a dramatic reading of the gubernatorial proclamation. Today, Hip Hop musician and teaching artist Jamaal “Mr. Root” Collier is helping us close out the week on a high note with a musical interpretation of the proclamation. Warning: Be prepared to have this catchy beat stuck in your head all day!

[youtube http://youtu.be/KtE5TZKTsG0]

Thank you to Jamaal and Single Carrot for lending their talents to our recognition of Maryland YA Week 2014 and providing two examples of how our roster of more than 110 teaching artists infuse the arts, creativity, and fun into learning and inspire and engage nearly 170,000 students and educators across Maryland each year.

Although YA Week ends tomorrow, Young Audiences and our artist and school partners will continue our work of increasing access to valuable arts experiences in all Maryland schools throughout the year. We agree with Jamaal: Let’s celebrate the arts all the time!

If you believe, like we do, that learning in and through the arts gives students opportunities to imagine, create, and realize their full potential, stay up-to-date with Young Audiences news by checking back in with our blog and following us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also sign up for our monthly enewsletter here.

See all Maryland YA Week posts here.

Learn more about Jamaal’s arts-in-education programs for schools here, and Single Carrot’s assembly program here

Part 2: Gubernatorial candidates share thoughts on arts education

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Young Audiences is using Maryland YA Week as an occasion to ask those running for governor of Maryland for their views on arts education. We extended the invitation to all candidates to respond to two questions that would be shared on our blog. We posted responses to the first question earlier this week and today we are sharing all of the responses we received to the second and last question:

Young Audiences/Arts for Learning is a nonprofit that transforms the lives and education of youth by connecting professional artists with schools and communities. Last year, Young Audiences created more than 9,000 opportunities for nearly 170,000 students and educators in 23 out of the 24 school districts, to learn in, about, and through the arts. The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities made five recommendations to reinvest in arts education (included in the full report, “Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools”). Two of them are expanding the in-school use of teaching artists and developing the field of arts integration, the practice of using the arts as a tool to teach other academic subjects. Do you agree? If so, how would you, as governor, move these recommendations forward?

We’ve listed the candidates’ responses alphabetically below. Thank you to Anthony Brown, David CraigDoug GanslerRalph Jaffe, and Heather Mizeur.

Anthony Brown

Over the last seven years, Maryland has augmented arts learning in schools through the Maryland State Arts Council’s Arts-in-Education Program, which supports performances, workshops, and residencies, as well as professional development for teaching artists. More than 500 schools and many teaching artists benefit each year from this program. The Brown-Ulman Administration will not only continue our support of this important program, but work to increase funding levels.

Every student learns differently. Arts integration is an exciting concept, which can enrich learning for more students. We will encourage our educators and local school boards to explore innovative course design that integrates the arts in ways that optimize education for all students.

The Governor’s P-20 Leadership Council established a Task Force on Arts Education in Maryland Schools in 2013, which is currently in the process of developing an action plan that ensures a quality arts education for all Maryland students.

We strongly support a high-quality arts education for every child in Maryland. We look forward to reviewing the report of the P-20 Leadership Council’s Task Force in September of this year and working together to implement recommendations that will help all Maryland children access the arts and reach their greatest potential.

Learn more about Anthony Brown here.

David Craig

As governor I would appoint members of the State Board who have a background of support in the field of art education and who would ensure that better policies move forward to expand education capacity. Some students love athletics, some love art, some both; we must provide equal acquisition on both aspects. When I taught I saw that children who were engaged in art transferred their enthusiasm to math, language arts, science, and social studies and did well across the board. I will ensure that this gets done.

Learn more about David Craig here.

Doug Gansler

I wholeheartedly agree. As someone who felt stifled by traditional learning approaches growing up, I wish I had benefited from the rich and creative approaches to teaching [Young Audiences] promotes. Expanding the use of teaching artists would give more students the opportunities to discover a mode of learning that ignites them, and more teachers the fulfillment that comes from offering classroom instruction in a form that resonates with their own creativity. Developing arts integration would enable more students to experience the arts as part of their everyday learning, and would also serve to better reinforce the subjects they learn; research shows that multimodal repetition and reinforcement help improve learning.

As governor, I will move these recommendations forward through setting goals early to deepen the reach of these approaches in our schools. Right now your work reaches nearly 200,000, but many thousands have yet to enjoy an arts-infused education, and many teachers have yet to discover how powerful the arts can be as a teaching tool. I will convene leading educators, including [Young Audiences] artists, at the start of my term to explore how we can best ensure that arts education is woven into our state’s overall education strategy. And I will work with teaching artists as I develop the Governor’s Teacher Corps, a program I have proposed to help close the achievement gap through improving teacher quality. The Governor’s Teacher Corps will pair selected new teacher recruits in our high-need elementary schools with exceptional teacher mentors for a period of three years. Participants will receive coaching, training, and professional development instructional resources and will be incentivized with loan assistance, provided the recruits attend Maryland universities. I will design the Corps to nurture aspiring teachers of all types, including aspiring teaching artists.

Fundamentally, I will be a governor who is open to new ways of approaching education. That shift in attitude alone will create a new space for visions like yours to flourish in our schools. And I will make clear to the leadership I appoint that arts education is important for helping our kids thrive. This is especially so in high-poverty areas, where arts education can serve as a vital, affirming form of enrichment for students who are subjected to daily struggles. Too often people assume arts education should be the first to go when school budgets are cut, but for many students, the arts are a lifeline, without which they may not be able to succeed in other areas of their education. Denying arts education, especially in lower-income areas, only widens the inequalities in education that are already too great in this state, inequalities that I want to work to close as governor.

Learn more about Doug Gansler here.

Ralph Jaffe

I agree with all of those goals. I think they are very worthy and I support that 100%. You need to contact the artists to see if they would like to help your program. I would call artists for you for free and place volunteers to call people for you. I don’t want to replace anybody who has a job and once they leave we will replace them with a volunteer. I would never be against anything that is educational. If your coordinator leaves I would replace them with a volunteer, but I would never want them to lose their job. I support the five recommendations entirely.

Learn more about Ralph Jaffe here.

Heather Mizeur

Our curriculum is going through tremendous change with the implementation of Common Core. While I understand a lot of the fear that exists with such a transition, there are a lot of things to like about the new standards. There is more emphasis on practical skills like careful observation and evidence-based problem solving—and I think arts integration could play a huge role in shaping more exciting and creative teaching methods in math, reading, writing, and science.

While there is an important separation between lawmakers and curriculum development, there is an important role for the governor to step in when certain skills are not being addressed in our schools: financial, civic, and sustainability literacy all come to mind. More emphasis on the arts falls into that category, and as governor, I will work with the Maryland State Department of Education and the local school boards to make art a key component of teaching methods. We can transition our focus from STEM to STEAM, where arts is added to science, technology, engineering, and math. We have already seen this done successfully in Anne Arundel, where several elementary schools have piloted arts integration. There is no reason why it cannot be brought up to scale throughout the state.

We need to have a bigger conversation about improving the prestige of educators. We know that the single most effective way to improve our academic outcomes is to improve the effectiveness of our educators. If we are truly going to prioritize art education in our schools, then we also have to prioritize art educators. My “Thornton 2.0” commission to study school funding will also study how to help educators be their best in the classroom. I fully expect that this commission will make recommendations to increase the number of teaching artists in our schools, and I will move swiftly to implement those recommendations.

Learn more about Heather Mizeur here.

Help us celebrate National and Maryland YA Week!

Join us in recognizing the importance of arts education this week by joining the conversation online and spreading the word. Be sure to check back in with the Young Audiences Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter as we continue highlighting the work of our artists and ensembles who are bringing valuable arts learning experiences to Maryland students this week!

To see all Maryland YA Week newsclick here.

Single Carrot helps us celebrate Maryland YA Week

Header photo with Elliott

Young Audiences’ roster of more than 110 professional artists inspires Maryland students each day. Teaching artists bring music, dance, theatre, and visual arts into schools and classrooms throughout the state–sharing their artistic knowledge with students, but also engaging them in learning in a new way. Students are exposed to art forms that they have never seen before, learn about new cultures, and discover new things about themselves and their abilities. To celebrate Maryland YA Week, we knew we had to call upon our artist partners to help us infuse this week’s celebrations with the same artistic expression, creativity, and fun that they share with Maryland students throughout the year.

Young Audiences roster theatre ensemble Single Carrot Theatre answered our call by performing a dramatic reading of the gubernatorial proclamation. Watch the video below!

[youtube http://youtu.be/b9YNTdQBSYo]

Many, many thanks to Single Carrot for lending their talent to this video and joining our celebration of Maryland YA Week 2014. You can learn more about Single Carrot’s assembly performance for schools here! Also, be sure to check out their upcoming show “The Memo” by Vaclav Havel, running April 2 to 27.

You can join the celebration, too!

If you believe, like we do, that learning  in and through the arts gives students opportunities to imagine, create, and realize their full potential, help us recognize the importance of arts education this week by spreading the word online. Check back in with the Young Audiences Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter as we continue highlighting the work of our artists and ensembles in schools every day.

To see all Maryland YA Week newsclick here.

Click here to learn more about Governor O’Malley’s Maryland Young Audiences Arts for Learning Week proclamation.

Gubernatorial candidates share thoughts on arts education

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Young Audiences is using Maryland YA Week as an occasion to ask those running for governor of Maryland for their views on arts education. As we mentioned earlier this week, we extended the invitation to all candidates to answer two questions that would be shared on our blog. Today we are sharing all of the responses we received to the first question:

Maryland needs creative citizens who can imagine new possibilities for our society, think critically, solve complex problems, and collaborate effectively with others to turn these new possibilities into a reality. Young Audiences/Arts for Learning believes that the arts are an essential vehicle for building these 21st Century Skills. We are concerned both by the cuts in arts education and that our standardized testing model does not recognize the full set of capacities needed to ensure that Maryland has a thriving workforce and a civil society. As governor, how would you address our concerns?

We’ve listed the candidates’ responses alphabetically below. Thank you to Anthony Brown, David CraigDoug GanslerRalph Jaffe, and Heather Mizeur.

Anthony Brown

Every Maryland student, regardless of where they live or the resources of their family, deserves a world-class education that includes the arts. We often talk about STEM education, but the conversation needs to be about the broader STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ARTS, and Mathematics) education. Arts integration in classrooms has been shown to reduce achievement gaps among economically disadvantaged youth. Access to arts programs has been linked to greater achievement on standardized tests for older students as well. But, perhaps most importantly, the arts promote healthy expression and important skills like creativity, innovation, risk-taking, and critical thinking, which are not nurtured in the traditional classroom setting.

Recently, the Brown-Ulman campaign announced our Running Start Program to deliver universal, voluntary, high-quality Pre-K to all Maryland 4-year-olds by 2018. We look forward to working with the arts community to ensure that Pre-K programming includes arts education.

We will work with our local school boards to preserve and expand arts education funding, which enhances the educational experience of all students.

Learn more about Anthony Brown here.

David Craig

As a teacher and school administrator at the middle school level for 34 years, I have a strong support for both performing and visual arts. This has expanded for me as I watch our grandchildren participating in choirs, bands, and plays with the eldest actually designing and preparing costumes for musicals. As governor I would fund these types of projects and encourage school systems to develop Magnet and Signature programs to attract students and raise their education level–something which standardized testing undermines.

Learn more about David Craig here.

Doug Gansler

I share [Young Audiences’] passion for the arts as a means for imagining new possibilities for our society, thinking critically, and connecting to the world around us. I have seen this firsthand, thanks to my wife, Laura, an author who has used the medium of writing to illustrate the lives of women imagining new possibilities for women during times–and in communities–where women were not equals. One of her books, “The Mysterious Private Thompson,” tells the true story of Sara Emma Edmonds who hid her gender to fight in the Civil War. Another, “Class Action,” recounts the true story of Lois Jenson, one of the first women hired at a Minnesota iron mine, the sexual harassment she experienced in the workplace, and the first class action sexual harassment lawsuit in the United States that resulted from it. That book inspired “North Country,” which used the medium of film to dramatize this important subject. As my wife’s books and the response to them demonstrate, art can provide meaning, insight, and understanding that moves us to reconsider our perspective and improve our world–often when our government and its leaders are unable to do so.

For our state–and our democracy–to flourish, we need to support our artists, and this includes funding for the arts and arts education. Unfortunately, over the last seven years, state funding for the arts has been largely uncertain, cut from $15.2 million in FY2008 down to $13.3 million by FY2010, only increasing last year for the first time in several years; and the Special Fund for the Preservation of Cultural Arts has been left unfunded for periods of time as well.

State funding for the arts and arts education will be secure during my administration as governor. I will work to make sure that arts education is supported and recognized as a vital component of education to be defended and protected, and that state leaders view it as a type of education that can translate into jobs. When evaluating the many achievement gaps in our state’s schools, we should also be looking at arts gaps, and should recognize that arts integration has the capacity to transform learning and close these gaps. I will work to ensure equal access to arts education–and the creativity and innovation it fosters–as governor. As President Obama has said, “The future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create.”

Lastly, as we continue our state’s transition to the Common Core State Standards, I will look for ways to help teachers find opportunities to use the arts to improve their instruction. It is true that our standardized testing model does not recognize how skills in the arts can empower our young people to be talented leaders in the workforce and in society as a whole, so I will seek more ways to integrate arts education into our overall education program. I am thrilled by the work organizations like yours do to advance this effort.

Learn more about Doug Gansler here.

Ralph Jaffe

My education program, “The Pre-K Plan” is a plan for education for grades one through college. I am a teacher and I am in favor of education. It starts with a mother and father. When I used to teach in 1964 I had a parent come see me for parent teacher conferences. This parent said: “I don’t understand my son is doing well in your class but my other son is not doing well in the 10th grade.” We have lost the family as an institution. We have to have a mother and father or surrogate mother or father who is willing to give care. You have to spend time with your children every day and we have to ask about their day every day. Until we fix the family our education is going to be a mess. It is not the money that makes the education system work; it is the effort, time, and commitment to working with your children.

One of the first things I am going to do [as governor] is call a conference of every church leader and every leader of the Jewish community and I am going to tell them they have to go back to their synagogues and churches and tell their members they have to take an interest in their children. Even businesses have to participate in the tracking of a child and be involved in mentoring and communicating with children. There must be a tracking system for everyone who is in the public education system. That doesn’t cost money, it is about leadership.

Learn more about Ralph Jaffe here.

Heather Mizeur

Any 21st Century innovation economy will need a private sector that knows how to capture the imagination of consumers. My 10-point jobs plan is centered in empowering middle-class families to earn more, be taxed less, and in turn, spend more money in our economy. Maryland needs a creative workforce to not only encourage our consumers to invest in the private sector, but also bring our communities closer together.

That is why I include the arts in my plan for growing our 21st Century innovation economy. Investing in science and technology fields is absolutely crucial—they will create enormous benefits in quality of life advances. But the arts are just as crucial, with regard to both culture and innovation. I have always believed that emotional intelligence is just as important for innovation as scientific intelligence. Look at Apple as just one example. Its products are not necessarily more useful than those of competitors, but the artistic design is extremely user-friendly and it completely captures the imagination of its consumers.

This all has to begin in our schools—a culturally aware and creative workforce has to be developed in our education system. Unfortunately, art has become the stepchild of school subjects. In my time on the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee, I have stood up against cuts to the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), which provides many important grants for arts education in both schools and extracurricular settings. As governor, I will work to expand funding for the MSAC, with a focus on providing more grant funding for school systems that need it most. We also need to look at arts as a more important element of the school day and I plan on making that message very clear to local school systems as governor.

This shift in vision for our education system also has to take form in our accountability measures. I am deeply concerned about the growing high-stakes testing culture that is spreading throughout our schools. Learning is not about consuming the right answers—it is about producing the profound questions and chasing those questions passionately. Teaching to the test does not spark creativity and a love for learning. As governor, I will put in place a four-year moratorium on using standardized tests scores for educator evaluations, and explore alternative assessments to PARCC that do more to encourage innovation and creativity in the classroom.

Learn more about Heather Mizeur here.

Help us celebrate National and Maryland YA Week!

Join us in recognizing the importance of arts education this week by joining the conversation online and spreading the word. Be sure to check back in with the Young Audiences Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter as we continue highlighting the work of our artists and ensembles who are bringing valuable arts learning experiences to Maryland students this week. On Thursday, we will post each candidate’s response to the second of our two questions.

Click here to learn more about Governor O’Malley’s Maryland Young Audiences Arts for Learning Week proclamation.

To see all Maryland YA Week newsclick here.

Happy Maryland YA Week!

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“Arts education enables students to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills…which supports academic success nationwide as well as personal growth outside the classroom.”
– U.S. House Resolution

As designated by a U.S. House of Representatives resolution, this week, March 16 to 22, 2014, is National Young Audiences Arts for Learning Week! More than 30 Young Audiences affiliates from California to Massachusetts will take part in celebrating Young Audiences Arts for Learning’s collective impact on schools across the nation.

Here in Maryland, Governor Martin O’Malley has issued a proclamation that this week will also be recognized as Maryland Young Audiences Arts for Learning Week, to recognize the contributions which Young Audiences/Arts for Learning programs make in transforming the lives and education of nearly 170,000 Maryland students each year through the arts, and to promote awareness of the role that the arts play in enriching the education of students and Maryland society as a whole. You can see an image of the full proclamation or read the full text as a PDF document here.

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This Monday through Friday, 5,225 Maryland students will take part in a Young Audiences program, whether it be a residency, assembly performance, workshop, or early learning program. Highlights include Single Carrot Theatre’s performance of Rumpled, a fractured fairy tale version of Rumpelstiltskin that explores issues of cheating and plagiarism; Rockcreek Steel Drums’ assembly “The Birth of Steel Drum Music,” which teaches students about the history of and science behind steel drums; and Diana Saez’s smART stART professional development workshop that teaches educators how to find the natural connections between music and various subject areas.

Help us celebrate National and Maryland YA Week by joining the conversation online and spreading the word. Be sure to check back in with the Young Audiences Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Throughout the week we’ll be highlighting the amazing work of our artists and ensembles who are bringing arts learning experiences to Maryland students this week. We are also using this occasion to ask those running for governor for their views on arts education. We’ve extended the invitation to all candidates to answer two questions (posted here) and will be sharing their responses here on the Young Audiences Blog later this week.

To see more news about Maryland YA Week, click here.