Students Need Arts Education Now More than Ever

Written by Stacie Sanders Evans,
President and CEO of Young Audiences/Arts for Learning

The arts shape who we are. When we’re exposed to an art form–when we’re diving in and really experiencing it–we’re seeing life through a different lens. This means that we’re accessing information that might otherwise have been out of reach and making connections that may not have been evident. And when these experiences happen in the classroom, students are empowered to make decisions, to collaborate and build with their peers, and to understand lessons in a way that is accessible to them. In celebration of National Arts in Education Week, we want to amplify the message that now more than ever, the arts are an essential part of every child’s education.

I remember the steel drums from my first assembly in second grade, the ballet performance of my first field trip at the Columbia Coliseum in South Carolina, and music class in the trailer. My first artist-in-residence experience introduced me to Batik in fourth grade. We had arts integration before anyone thought we needed to define what that was: In fifth grade, our teachers gave us a camcorder, and we produced a music video using Cyndi Lauper’s lyrics to True Colors as part of ELA curriculum.

This was all before I turned 12 years old. These moments made a mark on me. #BecauseOfArtsEd, I knew that life existed beyond my neighborhood, that history expanded beyond what I knew, and that those who “got” Cyndi Lauper “got” me at a time when I needed to feel understood. Three decades later, these moments from school resonate with me more than anything else.

It turns out my robust arts education back in the 80’s is now deemed a privilege. In the years since I was in elementary school, the facts show that kids today have fewer artists and arts teachers in their lives and as part of their public education.

This is not the only privilege that I benefit from and, when you are a person carrying privilege, it’s easier to look at the world through a window instead of raising the mirror to the world you are a part of. The mirror reveals a City where the police receive a budget of half a billion dollars–a sixth of the overall city budget–while our school system receives a mere fraction of that. The mirror shows that Black and Brown children in our state are less likely to have visual arts, dance, music, and theatre as part of their education. Imagine all of the moments of discovery, expression, connection, and cohesion that are eliminated by not having those kinds of teachers in their life?

The disinvestment grows. With the economic fallout of COVID, “belt-tightening” is already happening in school budgets; arts positions for the current school year in my kids’ public school have been cut, and I’ve heard that other arts teachers have either lost their positions or have been asked to not teach their art forms (i.e. an “elective”) but in a “core” subject. How is this ok when children are experiencing the trauma of a global pandemic and the murdering of Black people, including George Floyd, Breona Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery? How is this ok when the arts could help build the sanctuary our kids need and fuel the empowerment and self-actualization needed for the next generation to create a more racially just world?

At Young Audiences, we see that when we integrate the arts into instruction–beyond the art room or dance studio, and into literacy and math–you get high levels of engagement and, in turn, higher levels of achievement, particularly for kids who are identified as below grade level. This is because different things motivate and speak to different learners. For many kids, the arts may just be that thing. Each child has their own light switch that they sometimes need help turning on. The arts, teaching artists, and arts teachers in my life flipped that switch for me.

We at Young Audiences have come to realize that it can play a more intentional role in disrupting systems, like public education, when we see that system oppressing Black and Brown children instead of uplifting them. We are starting by getting our own classrooms in order, so that the faculty who teach in our Summer Arts & Learning Academy can construct anti-racist classrooms where all children are celebrated, honored, and affirmed. We asked this faculty to step into their roles as change agents within the current system. We understand that, in order to transform systems, we need to lift up an alternative model for what a new just system could look like. Artists, arts teachers, and arts organizations are essential to dismantling and rebuilding.

YA, in community with teaching artists, is on a course to re-envision how the arts can be used to transform the learning environment in school settings and at a systemic level. We know that #BecauseOfArtsEd, children start Kindergarten better prepared and ready to learn; that #BecauseOfArtsEd, students experience less summer learning loss, leading to more instruction time devoted to learning new material; and that #BecauseOfArtsEd, school communities see positive academic achievement and social and emotional development among students. The new system undoubtedly includes the arts. And we know that students absolutely deserve the arts as part of a well-rounded education. But, in this society, if we want to see a different reflection when looking in the mirror, we need them.

This post originally was written for AEMS and their #WeAllDeserveArts campaign. To learn more about the important work AEMS does to support and advance quality arts education in Maryland, visit their website at aems-edu.org.

Young Audiences of Maryland Wins NSLA 2020 New York Life Excellence in Summer Learning Award

BALTIMORE – Young Audiences of Maryland, the Baltimore-based nonprofit delivering arts-integrated learning experiences to Maryland students and educators, has won the National Summer Learning Association’s 2020 New York Life Foundation Excellence in Summer Learning Award for its Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA). Young Audiences was selected out of more than 350 applying organizations from across the country.

The 2020 New York Life Foundation Excellence in Summer Learning Award award honors Young Audiences’ Summer Arts & Learning Academy – operated in partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools – for curbing summer learning loss. While most children lose up to two months of math skills over the summer, the cumulative effects of summer learning loss are most detrimental to students living in under-resourced communities. Young Audiences has also been recognized for demonstrating excellence in accelerating academic achievement, promoting healthy development for children and youth, supporting educator professional development and enhancing family and community engagement. The award included a $10,000 donation to Young Audiences. Past award winners have included West Virginia University, Hasbro, Ohio State, and the YMCA.

“Our teaching artists, educators, and staff do incredible work every year to provide excellent arts and educational experiences to students in Title1 Baltimore City Public Schools through the Summer Arts & Learning Academy,” said Stacie Sanders Evans, Young Audiences President & CEO. “We are proud and thankful to be honored with this award, which validates what we’ve known all along: the arts transform learning for students.”

SALA is a free, five-week, summer program typically engaging more than 2,000 Baltimore students a year in hands-on, arts-based learning guided by professional teaching artists and educators. The seven year old program has been shown by multiple independent studies to reduce summer learning loss, increase student confidence and engagement, and transform how teachers teach. For example, SALA students may use beat boxing to support math instruction, paint their favorite scenes from stories they are reading, or explore the art of photography to learn about the nature all around them. This kind of programming is designed to make learning more accessible for students, and to influence traditional educational systems to empower all students to express their voices and experiences.

The awards are presented annually by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), the only national nonprofit exclusively focused on closing the achievement gap by increasing access to high-quality summer learning opportunities.

“Our teaching artists, educators, and staff do incredible work every year to provide excellent arts and educational experiences to students in Title1 Baltimore City Public Schools through the Summer Arts & Learning Academy,” said Stacie Sanders Evans, Young Audiences President & CEO. “We are proud and thankful to be honored with this award, which validates what we’ve known all along: the arts transform learning for students.”

“This award validates the creative approach of Baltimore City Public Schools and Young Audiences to using the summer months to address the opportunity gaps in our city,” said Dr. Sonia Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools. “When we bring artists into our classrooms in the summer they spark curiosity, creativity, and a desire to learn that fuels our students’ academic growth.”

Young Audiences Arts for Learning Maryland

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

About the National Summer Learning Association
The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) is the only national nonprofit exclusively focused on closing the achievement gap by increasing access to high-quality summer learning opportunities. NSLA recognizes and disseminates what works in summer learning, develops and delivers community capacity-building offerings and convenes and empowers key actors to embrace summer learning as a solution for equity and excellence in education. For more information, visit www.summerlearning.org/.

Lessons from Summer: Preparing for a Virtual Fall

By now, Maryland students will have started their new school year. We know they have been missed terribly by their teachers and by their friends. And while they might not be reuniting in the ways that they had hoped, we know that they can still feel the love, the excitement, and support they would normally get in person. We know this because this summer, we were able to build and maintain the community and connections that students and families have come to expect from our programseven though the circumstances were different.

Just as in years prior, students practiced their math and literacy skills each day with educators and professional teaching artists in our Virtual Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA). Besides the traditional benefits of summer learning, our students had the additional experience of getting adjusted to online learning in the fall. One parent said, “I really appreciated the fact that students were able to be in a virtual camp and prepare themselves for the upcoming virtual school year.”

“I really appreciated the fact that students were able to be in a virtual camp and prepare themselves for the upcoming virtual school year.”

And because they were learning through the arts, students were engaged, they had fun, and they were driven to learn and succeed. We saw puppet theatre performances and were treated to kitchen instrument concerts. We heard all about new passions ranging from embroidery to engineering. And we saw students and their families and caregivers having fun while learning and engaged in the arts together.

Teaching artist Marian McLaughlin’s class made a collaborative crankie—a moving illustrated story—after reading the book “City Green”. The crankie shows everyone’s garden plots in their imaginary community garden.

We discovered that our Virtual SALA students RULE Zoom! At this year’s program culmination, students presented collaborative class projects and Creative Challenges and we were absolutely blown away by their creativity and hard work. And it’s not just the time and effort that was apparent in their presentationsyou can feel their joy and pride, their camaraderie and excitementeven through the screen!

Students in this year’s Virtual Summer Arts & Learning Academy worked with teaching artist Femi the Drifish and educator Mrs. Cassin to create “Our Changing World News”.

We also had the honor of congratulating 19 incredible students on their completion of the Bloomberg Arts Internship, the college and career readiness program for rising high school seniors. Like our SALA students, the 2020 interns completed the entirety of the program virtually. All summer long, these students honed their writing skills, prepared applications for college, attended virtual workshops on financial literacy and college preparedness, and met over Zoom with professional artists working across a multitude of disciplines.

Writing samples created by students during the internship were presented at the culminating ceremony.
Interns were presented with messages of gratitude from their peers.

At their worksites, interns completed projects that required extensive research and the development of new skills. They engaged in lively and thoughtful discussion; they showed up and challenged themselves and inspired each other to aim high; and they cared for and supported one another daily.

This video, created by Gyasi Mitchell, BAI class of 2019, offers a glimpse into week four of our virtual Bloomberg Arts Internship.

We learned so much about reaching and inspiring students virtually and about connecting talented and committed teaching artists and educators with families in all new ways this summer. This was not the summer any of us expected when we started planning for it last yearin what now feels like a very different time. But summer is a magical season at Young Audiences, pandemic or not, and we are so thankful to be able to take this experience and all the lessons we learned and apply it to the new school year.

We are truly excited to now offer a diverse array or synchronous and asynchronous programing to help schools engage students this school year. We know that creating content that changes the pace of remote learning can be a daunting challenge for educators. Young Audiences’ remote learning programs provide the tone and flow that makes learning interesting and fun. Our standards-based resources motivate students to stay engaged and provide busy educators with high-quality, fully customizable options for delivering content. Visit yamd.org/remote-learning to learn more about how our professional teaching artists bring excitement and joy into your virtual classrooms!

Weekends Are for Arts & Learning Kids!

Did you catch Arts & Learning Kids! on Channel 77 this weekend? Young Audiences created this cool educational TV show in partnership with City Schools to reinforce what our students are learning remotely through interactive arts-integrated lessons!

Each episode is geared toward one of three grade bands (PreK/K, 1/2, and 3rd-5th Grades), and features a teacher and professional artist co-teaching an arts-integrated math or literacy lesson in-line with the math and literacy work students are currently doing either virtually or via packets. After each episode airs, it is accessible anytime online at yamd.org/kids.

This is not a passive viewing experience! During each episode, students are challenged to explore learning through a variety of art forms. They’ll learn key math concepts using their whole bodies and voices; write and animate their own myths by creating a flip book; learn basic tap steps to help review fractions; engage in storytelling using an actor’s tools; or even solve math problems with shadow puppets!


In the episode “Character Traits Choreography,” students have the opportunity to identify their own character traits and those of important Civil Rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ruby Bridges. Students will be able to unlock their creativity and communicate those character traits through dance! Learning several elements of dance like frozen poses, levels, shapes and energy, students will not only get to perform the Ruby Bridges choreography, but will be inspired to look for the leaders—particularly those who respond to injustice—in their communities and in themselves, identify character traits of those individuals, and create their own choreography. (This episode is recommended for students in 1st and 2nd Grade) 

As a fun bonus, within each episode are two special segments. The “Sweet Stuff Showcase” highlights an engaging and educational digital experience from outside of our own organization. The “Artsplosions” segment features YA artists presenting a cool and quick experience in their art form that often encourages kids to get up and get moving. We are so excited to share Arts & Learning Kids! with you. It really is an AWESOME program and we think that even parents and caregivers will find that it’s super fun to watch. Check it out!

Artists and crew behind the scenes filming the new kids educational TV show Arts & Learning Kids

Young Audiences Produces Curriculum-based TV Show To Support Baltimore Students’ Remote Learning

Arts Integration Episodes Will Air Weekly Through Partnership with
Baltimore City Public Schools

BALTIMORE – Young Audiences of Maryland, the Baltimore-based nonprofit delivering arts-integrated learning to Maryland students, is partnering with Baltimore City Public Schools to produce Arts & Learning Kids, a weekly series of TV broadcasts bringing engaging, arts-integrated classroom lessons directly into the homes of students and families while schools are closed.

The Arts & Learning Kids series launches Saturday, April 11 at 10:15am on the City Schools’ Channel 77 and will air every weekend. Multiple curriculum-aligned episodes will be tailored to three grade bands: pre-k/kindergarten, 1st-2nd grade, and 3rd-5th grade. Baltimore City Public Schools is using Channel 77 to deliver educational content to support students and families during school closures. Click here to view the full schedule of programming.

Young Audiences will create new 30-minute episodes every week for all grade bands, starting with four Arts & Learning Kids programs that support Baltimore City Public Schools’ Wit & Wisdom literacy curriculum and Eureka Math curriculum. Each episode will feature a Young Audiences teaching artist and an educator. For example, one episode shows songwriter Mary Fields working with teacher Kevin Older to write song lyrics that help them solve a word problem. In another episode, dancer Valerie Branch partners with educator Kristina Berdan to create choreography connected to the character traits of important civil rights leaders like Ruby Bridges. 

The Arts & Learning Kids videos will offer modified versions of the teaching artists’ classroom activities, tailored for students learning at home and incorporating activities that could include their families. Episodes will encourage students to share their creation or performance with Young Audiences, which will make them available on social media and possibly include them in future episodes of Arts & Learning Kids

Check out one of the first episodes, focused on math:

Teaching artists are professional artists who work with classroom teachers and deliver hands-on, arts-infused learning experiences that support traditional academic content. 

Young Audiences suggested the Arts & Learning Kids programs to Baltimore City Public Schools, and is the only provider of education content for City Schools’ Channel 77 programming beyond programming from Great Minds, the DC-based organization which created the Wit & Wisdom and Eureka Math curricula.

“Young Audiences has been a consistent and positive influence in our community and we look forward to continuing our partnership in creative, new ways as we implement the district’s Continuity of Learning plan in response to school closures,” said Janise Lane, Baltimore City Public Schools Executive Director of Teaching and Learning. “The Continuity of Learning plan is designed to continue learning while being as flexible as possible for our families; to continue the connections that matter – between teacher and student, family, and school; and to create a safe and nurturing virtual classroom community where everyone supports each other. To achieve these goals it is vital to provide alternate avenues for learning and connection and The Arts & Learning Kids show is a key component of that effort.”

“Ensuring that students are engaged, learning and connected during this period of school closures is critical,” said Stacie Sanders Evans, President and CEO of Young Audiences of Maryland. “Arts & Learning Kids will provide a consistent place for young people to visit — particularly those that do not have access to the internet for online learning — and to connect with dynamic artists and teachers. There they can explore literacy and math through a variety of art forms and be challenged to share their new knowledge with caregivers and parents who also need an opportunity to express and create.”

Young Audiences Arts for Learning Maryland

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

Children performing their own version of Little Red Riding Hood

Young Audiences’ Free Summer Arts & Learning Academy to Expand to Nearly 2,600 Children After Study Shows it Reduces Summer Learning Loss

Arts-integrated program for City Schools students expanding to nine sites in 2020 after program successfully reduced summer learning loss in math

BALTIMORE – Young Audiences’ Summer Arts & Learning Academy–the free, five-week arts integration program for Baltimore City Public School students–will expand in 2020 after new research showed the program successfully reduces summer learning loss in math while supporting writing and social-emotional growth. In 2020, the program will grow to nine sites, reaching nearly 2600 students across Baltimore.

The 2019 Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA) was held from July 6 to August 7 at eight sites. Through hands-on activities co-taught by teaching artists and teachers, more than 2,300 Pre K-5th grade students engaged in painting, songwriting, poetry, dance, music, photography, and playwriting while learning math, writing, and literacy.

“Arts education is a vital component of instruction in City Schools because its concepts infuse other key instructional areas such as language arts and mathematics. That combination creates a well-rounded education for our students,” said Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises, CEO of City Schools. “We are pleased to partner with Young Audiences/Arts for Learning as it enhances its contribution to the arts education of our students. Its work is invaluable in expanding the minds and skillsets of our students.”

Research from Baltimore City Public Schools and evaluation firm WolfBrown showed that the infusion of the arts into traditional learning content transformed the classroom experience, resulting in academic gains for students. Baltimore City Public Schools analyzes student performance on the i-Ready math assessment, taken at the end and beginning of each school year to gauge summer learning loss. Results showed that SALA attendees had significantly less summer learning loss in i-Ready math compared to BCPSS students who did not attend the program. The district evaluation also highlighted YA as the most cost-efficient elementary program with the highest rates of enrollment and attendance.

WolfBrown, a national leader in research on arts education and children’s development, partnered with Young Audiences to analyze the 2019 SALA results and reported significant academic gains–an average of 20% growth–in third-fifth grade writing scores on pre-and-post program testing. WolfBrown also found that students attending SALA for two years showed no summer learning loss in math. Rather, these students experienced academic gains when returning to school, growing their i-Ready scores by nearly three percentile ranks.

WolfBrown’s findings showed that while all kids can benefit from the program, students who are furthest behind academically can benefit the most. Students (grades 3-5) entering the program two grade levels below grade level saw no summer learning loss in reading as measured by i-Ready. In fact, these students grew by two percentile ranks when returning to school in the Fall. 

With Baltimore City Public Schools prioritizing whole child education, Young Audiences (YA) partnered with WolfBrown to develop and pilot an observation tool last summer that spans from emotional support and social climate to academic knowledge and arts integration. The framework is based on what research shows matters in a learning environment–and it may ultimately help YA and City Schools better understand why this program works. Observers scored SALA particularly high in classroom climate, teacher sensitivity, ability to develop math skills in students, co-teaching, and differentiated literacy instruction.  

“Arts education is a vital component of instruction in City Schools because its concepts infuse other key instructional areas such as language arts and mathematics. That combination creates a well-rounded education for our students,” said Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises, CEO of City Schools. “We are pleased to partner with Young Audiences/Arts for Learning as it enhances its contribution to the arts education of our students. Its work is invaluable in expanding the minds and skillsets of our students.”

“We are thrilled that City Schools is choosing to partner with Young Audiences to expand this program to more children in summer 2020,” said Stacie Sanders Evans, Young Audiences President & CEO. “We also love that City Schools is committed to the whole child, making sure kids have opportunities to develop personally, creatively, and academically over the summer.”

Registration for the 2020 Summer Arts & Learning Academy will open on Tuesday, March 3, with the program running from July 6 to August 7. Host sites include Arundel Elementary Middle School, Elmer A. Henderson-Hopkins, Dorothy I. Height Elementary School, Gardenville Elementary School, Beechfield Elementary Middle School, James McHenry Elementary School, Pimlico Elementary/Middle School, Wildwood Elementary/Middle School, and Graceland Park-O’Donnell Heights Elementary School. Find registration and more information at yamd.org/programs/summer-arts-academy.

View the full Baltimore City Public Schools Summer Evaluation
View the full WolfBrown SALA Evaluation

Young Audiences Arts for Learning Maryland

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

Artists and Staff tasing for a group photo in the courtyard of a renovated industrial building

#GivingArts4Learning: Micaela’s Story

Our staff at Young Audiences do not just come to work. We come to support a mission: to transform the lives and education of our youth through the arts by connecting educators, professional artists, and communities. And we come with our hearts and minds and bodies ready to go above and beyond to realize this mission.

Micaela wrote, “When I started at Young Audiences six years ago, I thought we needed the arts to help students be more engaged in school and make learning more accessible. I had just been a teacher, and I saw changes in my students when they worked in the artsnew leaders emerged when we did a class talent show, and huge smiles appeared on kids’ faces when they got “their own” recorders to take home from music class.

We need young people who not only have the skills needed to build a better world, but can imagine what that might look like. Artists in schools seems like one of our best shots at giving kids the space and community to become the wild, imaginative thinkers and doers that we all need.

These things are still truethe arts are awesome at engaging kids in school, providing an opportunity for students to do hands on work that is meaningful, visible, and matters. And, they spark joy in kids!

Today, though, I think there is more that I didn’t realize a few years ago. I think we need imagination in volume and degrees beyond what I understand. We need young people who not only have the skills needed to build a better world, but can imagine what that might look like. Artists in schools seems like one of our best shots at giving kids the space and community to become the wild, imaginative thinkers and doers that we all need.”

Spoken word artist Femi the Drifish stands at a table where students are seated looking over their work.

#GivingArts4Learning: Femi’s Story

Our artists know how to use their art form to draw kids into the work, to get students to challenge and surprise themselves and proudly show off their achievements. They see how arts integration engages and motivates even the most reluctant students.

Spoken Word Artist Femi the Drifish told us, ”I was working with 7th graders at Commodore John Rodgers Elementary/Middle doing an arts integration math program using rhythm, rhyme, and poetry. Going through what is common in a classroom, I challenged the students to use their algebra vocabulary to describe the city of Baltimore using the terms in creative ways—metaphorically, but in correct context.

There was one student, clearly the “too cool for school” type, who just wasn’t participating in any activity that led up to the final writing exercise. Once the scaffolding was completed and students were set to complete their assigned writing prompt, I witnessed that one kid scribbling on paper in the corner by his lonesome, away from tables where students where gathered.

Upon completion, students shared their work trying to impress each other with the cleverness of their vocabulary usage in the Baltimore City descriptive poems, when he asked if he could share his poem.

I was surprised—just like his teacher and his class peers—and quickly encouraged him to step up to the front of the class to present before he decided to retreat into the disinterested facade he used during all the warmups. As he delivered the poem I realized that he didn’t stick to the theme given, but instead described his love for the game of football using the math terms.

The class roared on cheers upon his completion and the teacher grabbed the poem from him to share with other teachers who wandered into the class to congratulate him.”

The Pre-K class sitting together on a rug depicting the solar system, posing with Alice, a student volunteer.

#GivingArts4Learning: Shannon’s Story

Alice’s year at Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA) meant so much to her. The program helped bring clarity to math concepts my daughter was struggling with through an art form she loves, she felt confident, and she felt like she was part of something larger than herself. It made her feel proud of herself and proud of her community.

She wrote, “A lot of people think of Baltimore as how the news shows and talks about it. The news tends to only show the little bad things about us. I wish people could just see what SALA is like. It’s a perfect representation of Baltimore’s youth! It shows that we are creative, compassionate, caring, and loyal.” Now Rosario, my youngest daughter, looks forward to SALA every summer. And even though Alice is too old to attend, she volunteers in the program. “I can help and watch other children get the same great experience that I did.”

As I’ve seen with my own children, arts integration is not just fun in the moment. These are experiences that shape students’ mindsets, their education, their goals—experiences that students carry with them and inform their decisions for years to come. Please give today.

Stacie Sanders Evans posing for a photo with Colette, a high school student and Impact Breakfast speaker

#GivingArts4Learning: Barbara’s Story

I have been a volunteer for Young Audiences for seven years now, ever since discovering them when Colette was in 10th grade, and was asked to speak at their Impact Breakfast. I learned then how much YA had already impacted her, as Colette was part of the PVA (Performing and Visual Arts) magnet at school. Teaching artists from YA were very active, and still are, with the PVA in Anne Arundel County.

But what really impressed me was YA’s involvement at all grade levels and in so many schools across Maryland. By integrating the arts into core curriculum, kids learn in a way that helps them retain the information. Whether it’s rapping their multiplication tables, dancing to showcase literature themes or creating mosaics to depict basic biology, the kids are learning because they’re HAVING FUN!

As for Colette, she’s finishing her senior year at East Carolina University, as an electrical engineer.  And she still benefits from the arts-integrated education she has received.  For example, although I may not comprehend the mathematical formulas in the papers I proofread for her, her PowerPoint presentations are so visually pleasing that I don’t mind reading what I don’t understand!  Seriously, I hope you’ll consider donating today so that other kids can have the great experiences and training that she received as part of YA’s arts-integrated education techniques.

#GivingArts4Learning: Alex’s Story

Young Audiences has played a pivotal role in Alex’s life, both past and present. As a child, he discovered his love of writing during a YA artist residency in his public elementary school. Nearly two decades later he works as a staff member with Young Audiences of Maryland.

He wrote “As an adult who was diagnosed with a learning disorder later in life, I can look back and say that my experience with YA was a turning point in my journey to know and love myself. When I had the chance to demonstrate my understanding by creating, rather than just consuming information, I found myself not only participating in class but thriving! I want to stress how much even a single experience can expand a young person’s horizons of possibility, both for their education and their future.”

Now, Alex coordinates YA’s programming with schools in Prince George’s, St. Mary’s and Calvert County and writes fiction and poetry as well. “It brings me great joy to step into a school and know that a student will find a lifelong sense of meaning and passion because of our work.”

Alex is an example of the power of arts integration in the life of our students, especially those who struggle to learn through traditional means. He is proud to “pay it forward” as a staff member and encourages you to support our work across the state of Maryland. Please give today.

Children on stage in a row striking a very dramatic pose

Arts & Learning Days: A Taste of Summer in the School Year

A whole-child approach to learning puts significant focus on the social and emotional needs of students. And as we’ve seen in our Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA), the arts and arts integration pair naturally with social and emotional learning (SEL). In SALA, our teaching artists and their academic partners plan their lessons through a student-centered lens, giving children the opportunity to learn in a way that works best for them—and supplying them with the emotional tools they need to be successful and connected to the learning—and to each other. In fact, a report from Education Dive notes that in school, “artistic endeavors—whether performing, creating, or responding to others’ work—likely involve even more social-emotional skills and opportunities for students to practice them.”

Through drama, students in SALA feel the thrill of embodying their favorite storybook characters. They learn to express ideas through dance and emotions through music. They feel the pride of understanding mathematical concepts when, through visual arts, abstract ideas can be seen, felt, created, and replicated. What if we applied the artist expertise and program model that makes SALA so successful to the actual school year?

Knowing that MSDE-approved educational models like SALA’s can also be used to address many issues impacting education, our SALA team tailored its model to meet the needs of students who need extra schoolyear support and introduced Arts & Learning Days at three different sites in Baltimore City: Harlem Park Elementary/Middle, Collington Square Elementary/Middle, and Leith Walk Elementary/Middle. These new Arts & Learning Days give teachers and students the opportunity to teach and learn creatively, through self-expression, and with a focus on social and emotional wellbeing.

Arts & Learning Days:

  • Support students in afterschool time
  • Expose students to different art forms
  • Provide teacher professional development in arts integration
  • Increase academic performance

Each academic quarter has four Arts & Learning Days. On these days, five teaching artists spend the day at the school co-planning and co-teaching arts-integrated lessons with two different teachers each. Arts & Learning Days are more than artist residencies—they are real-time professional development for school-wide transformation. Teachers discover new ways to create engaging lessons, to blend academic and social and emotional learning, and to ignite creativity and self-expression—and they get to put it into practice right away!

Afterward, teachers and artists reflect and revise lessons. Classroom teachers also meet with Education Director Kristina Berdan multiple times, who offers the educators feedback and strategies to improve their practice.

Vonnya Pettigrew of Root Branch Film working with students to create a documentary.

The arts even extend into afterschool time when an artist or ensemble brings their program to an existing afterschool program for additional enrichment. This year alone, students enrolled in afterschool programs have already been able to work with Wombwork Productions, Inc., Vonnya Pettigrew of Root Branch Film, and Guardian Dance Company!

These opportunities for students and educators through Arts & Learning Days wouldn’t be possible without the support of the principals, the afterschool providers, and the teachers. We are looking forward to many more Arts & Learning Days to come and can’t wait to share them with you.

To access the Collington Square Arts & Learning Day 1 video transcript, click here.