Creative Collaborations for School Improvement: A New Leadership Unit Course for Baltimore City

Over the summer, Baltimore City Public School principals convened for the third time to attend a professional development course unlike any other. The first session was held in May at the Baltimore Museum of Industry where they explored the many ways arts and creativity intertwine with local industry of both the past and the future. The second, at Creative Alliance, where the group attended a workshop and lunch with Artesanas Mexicanas, a group of talented Mexican women, now residents of Southeast Baltimore, who share their rich cultures and folkloric traditions through art.

On this third session, principals gathered on a stage where so many critically acclaimed actors and singers have stood before. Looking out into the house of the Hippodrome Theatre, one could only imagine the thrill a performer might feel standing before a crowd of fans.

But how does an actor get to the stage? And what needs to happen for a show to go on? What can Baltimore City Public Schools do to prepare students for careers in theatre? These are some of the questions local principals explored in Creative Collaborations for School Improvement, a leadership course designed for principals to experience first-hand the many facets of Baltimore arts and cultural organizations, as well as how innovative partnerships with area cultural resources can help schools prepare their students for careers in fields related to the industry.

Throughout the course, principals have the opportunity to build strong relationships with not only engaged cultural organizations, but with expert teaching artists, like YA roster artists Matt Barinholtz of FutureMakers and internationally acclaimed slam poet Gayle Danley, as well as guest speakers including arts integration advocates.

“I do think that in my 31 years in City Schools that the Creative Collaborations for School Improvement course is among the most beneficial professional developments in which I have participated,” said Sinclair Lane Elementary School principal Roxanne Thorn-Lumpkins.

Principal Roxanne Thorn-Lumpkins testing the ropes of the fly system at the Hippodrome Theatre under the guidance of  assistant electrician Danyela Marks.

The principals were briefed on the history of the renowned theatre, then were led on a tech tour of the space by assistant electrician Danyela Marks. High above the stage is home to the control center of all of a production’s moving parts: the fly system. Thick, strong ropes, levers, weights and counterweights are all strung taut, connected precisely and purposefully, reminiscent of the inside of a piano. Any movement on the set during a production: a wall sliding, scenes changing, or an actor flying, is made from here. To work on this side of the curtain, they discover, a person needs a solid foundation in math and physics.

Olive Waxter, Director of the Hippodrome Foundation & Ron Legler, President, France-Merrick Performing Arts Center spoke with principals about their commitment to the community.

The group descended from the tech booth to the dressing rooms, located one level beneath the stage. Here, among the bright lights and mirrors, they learned about the Hippodrome Foundation (HFI), its mission & educational outreach programs, and how their schools can take advantage of them. They spoke with Olive Waxter, Director of the Hippodrome Foundation and Ron Legler, President of the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center about their institutions’ commitment to providing opportunity in the community.

WYPR theatre critic Judy Wynn Rousuck led principals in an exercise writing from the perspective of one of their five senses.

Former long-time Baltimore Sun critic and current WYPR theatre critic Judy Wynn Rousuck met principals for a fun written exercise. Part of Judy’s work with HFI centers on enhancing written communication skills with young people. On this day, she challenged the educators to write a short descriptive piece using just one of their fives senses to illustrate their subject. It is easy to imagine the excitement young people must feel in Judy’s classes when they see their words come alive and work together to paint a vivid picture.

Of course, no visit to the theatre is complete without getting a taste of the performers’ experience. So here, on the Hippodrome Stage, principals stepped into students’ shoes to work with co-director of the Hippodrome Foundation’s summer theatre camp, Becky Mossing, education director Barb Wirsing, and Markia Smith, a former camper, now a counselor to learn a number from the musical 70, Girls, 70. At the piano, they worked on vocals. The group then moved on to blocking (the movements and positions actors are assigned on stage), and after some practice, revealed their grand performance of “Coffee (In a Cardboard Cup).” And they did a pretty great job.

The next Creative Collaborations for School Improvement course will be held at Center Stage on October 7, 2017. Principals and assistant principals who would like to register for the course should contact Valeriya Nakshun for more information.

Summer Arts & Learning Academy

Summer Arts and Learning Academy: The Name Says it All

Written by Barbara Krebs,

Young Audiences volunteer and Sunburst Society member

Seedfolks. Bizz Buzz. These are just a couple of the new things I learned about when I visited the Summer Arts and Learning Academy at Thomas Jefferson Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore.

And learning through the arts is the whole point of this summer academy, now in its third year of operation. Young Audiences/Arts for Learning, in partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools, operates four of these academies at schools throughout the district as part of a system-wide arts-integrated strategy to reduce summer learning loss in literacy and math. Approximately 1,144 kindergartners through fifth graders take advantage of this free, fun-filled educational opportunity. 

My first stop was to meet Site Director Kristin Taylor who manages the program at Thomas Jefferson. As we headed to the first classroom of fifth graders, she enthusiastically filled me in on the size of this particular academy (280 students), its average daily attendance (250 students), and the benefits provided at every site to help parents and kids (after-school care until 6:00 pm and free breakfasts and lunches served every day to each student).

As we walked through the halls, student-created posters, snippets of conversations, and the sounds of music offered glimpses of the learning that was taking place.  

I entered the fifth-grade classroom of Ms. Paige and visual artist Mama Sallah just in time to watch a production of a chapter from Seedfolks, a book that shows how a neighborhood is transformed as people from different cultures interact in a garden. After the first group performed, I got a chance to ask Kenaya, one of the student actresses, about the book.  She explained to me that each chapter of the book focused on a different character. The classroom had been divided into groups, each assigned to act out a different chapter of the book. These groups were to then silently act out what the narrator was reading.  

Mama Sallah and a visual art student during one of many afternoon arts major and arts exploration classes.

Kenaya’s group focused on Kim, a Vietnamese girl from the first chapter. The story starts with the girl staring at a portrait of her father. While one student narrated, others acted out the parts of Kim, the father’s portrait, and even more characters as the action moved into the garden Kim had planted.

I enjoyed watching their attention to the story and how each child handled their role, whether it was bending down to dig in the “dirt” or, like the young man playing the role of the portrait, staring silently into space, giving no indication that he was anything other than a photograph frozen in time. These were serious actors, hard at work.

Hip hop artist Jamaal “Mr. Root” Collier leading a game of Bizz Buzz at Thomas Jefferson Elementary/Middle School

The next classroom was quite a contrast. Ms. Chase and hip hop musician Jamaal “Mr. Root” Collier were teaching math to a mixed classroom of fourth and fifth graders, and I had arrived in time to witness a game of Bizz Buzz. The children formed a large circle in the room, then took turns doing math calculations in their heads, making sure their answer was either a multiple of three or five. Emotional sounds quickly filled the room: Squeals of excitement for the game, celebratory cheers as someone answered correctly, silence filled with tension and pressure as someone struggled to find the right number, and supportive classmates whispering, “You can do it!” and “You got this!”

I have to admit I never did quite get the idea of when you yelled, “Buzz!” or “Bizz!” instead of a number, so I guess I’m going to have to admit that I am NOT as smart as a fifth grader. Luckily, they are!

The next classroom was filled with third graders who were also working on math. However this time the class focused on word problems and measurements. Without the drama of Bizz Buzz, this classroom was much quieter with children working at their desks. As I wandered around the room, one outgoing and cheerful girl, Mikhia, came up to me.  I probably looked a little lost because she explained to me what was going on – how they were learning about different cultures.  I asked her if she liked the Academy, and she grinned broadly and nodded her head, yes.  

“What do you like about it?”

“The teachers,” she answered without hesitation.

“What do you like about them?”

“They are nice, loving, and helpful.  I’m learning so much this summer!”

The last classroom I visited was composed of first graders.  I noticed a colorful picture on one boy’s desk of a volcano with a person going up the side of it and asked him about it.  “Who’s that?” I asked, pointing to the person.  

“That’s me,” Donald answered.

At that point, we were interrupted as it was time to line up for lunch.  But before he left, I got another opportunity to ask him about his work. “Why are you walking up the side of the volcano?” I asked. He seemed a little confused but answered gamely, “I’m not walking, I’m flying.”  

“Oh,” and now it was my turn to be a little confused.  “You must be very powerful to fly.”  

By now the girl in line behind him decided she had to help this poor confused person. Explaining patiently but emphatically, she corrected me. “It’s not powerful. It’s imagination!” At which point, I learned that their classroom was focusing on stories that dealt with imagination. So, yes, flying makes perfect sense. I’d rather fly over a volcano than walk up it, too!

As the children headed off to lunch, I thought about my first morning at Young Audience’s Summer Arts and Learning Academy and all the kindergarten through fifth-grade pros who had guided me through the learning process. I realized I had learned a lot, too.  

For example, I learned that reading and acting out the story is a powerful way to concentrate on both the characters and the narration. I learned that math can be extremely riveting and exciting. I learned that different cultures can guide your math skills. And I learned that I need to let my imagination soar. But most importantly, I learned that combining arts with learning is fun – and effective – and that’s why the kids love it.

Bloomberg Arts Internship

Bloomberg Arts Internship: Designed to Challenge and Inspire

Young Audiences of Maryland and the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance are searching for 25 rising Baltimore City public high school seniors for a six-week paid summer internship!

In 2012, Bloomberg Philanthropies created the Bloomberg Arts Internship program in New York City as a pipeline for public school students to college and careers. It is a rigorous program with three major elements: a six-week placement and project working day-to-day in an arts organization; visits to arts/cultural organizations; and professional development. This program’s success led the foundation to expand its reach, first to students in Philadelphia, and in 2017, to Baltimore City. Young Audiences and GBCA are thrilled to be able to offer this opportunity to Baltimore City School students as well as Baltimore’s arts and cultural institutions.

This is so much more than a summer job, it is a chance for young scholars to be challenged and inspired while getting meaningful, real-world experience. This phenomenal opportunity is made possible through the Bloomberg Arts Internship program which places qualified students at arts and cultural institutions across Baltimore City. This summer, 25 students will participate in a rich, immersive, and dynamic learning environment in which they will build career skills and plan for their futures. Baltimore’s renowned and reputable arts and cultural organizations will guide interns through both creative and administrative projects, offering a unique perspective of  day-to-day operations within the art world.

STUDENTS

Interns are paid $9.25 per hour for 35 hours per week for the six-week internship, and an additional 20 hours during the orientation week—a total of 230 hours from June 20 – August 4, 2017. To apply, students must be enrolled in a Baltimore City public high school and:

  • Successfully complete junior year in 2016-17
  • Be 16 years of age or above by June 15, 2017
  • Have a passion for the arts
  • Commit to attend the 35-hour/week internship plus 20 hours of orientation  (June 20-23)
  • Commit to working full-time for 6 weeks  from June 26-August 4
  • Be able to work legally in the U.S.

Applications are due March 31, 2017

Submit an Application  |  Learn More

ARTS & CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS

Arts and Cultural organizations play a critical role in The Bloomberg Arts Internship. We are looking for 12-15 partners with the capacity to provide a rich, quality experience for the interns and meet the necessary Bloomberg guidelines. Worksite partners will be paid $750 per intern to help offset the costs of staff time in supervising and guiding the intern(s). Although only 12 to 15 organizations will be selected as worksite partners, there will be other ways to collaborate with us on BAI, such as hosting visits as part of the cultural field trip days or participating as a presenter/panel member as part of the professional development curriculum.

The YA/GBCA team comprises members with expertise in arts leadership and management, curriculum development, and arts education. Partners can expect consistent support from the YA/GBCA staff throughout the program.

Applications are due April 14, 2017

Apply to Become a Worksite Partner |  Learn More

For more information
contact Chaz Walters, Bloomberg Program Coordinator
[email protected] or call 410-837-7577

Arts for all

Painting

This week, Washington Post reporter Valerie Strauss wrote about why the arts are, more often than not, the first budget cut at public schools serving predominately low-income students–even though much research has supported why the arts are critical to a child’s development. These schools’ tight budgets force them to prioritize the subjects covered in standardized tests that both measure students’ achievement as well as teachers’ ability. Ms. Strauss argues that the focus on testing has forced educators to ignore what they know about the positive and transformative impact of the arts in the classroom.

Less fortunate children have been on the receiving end of what I’d call an emergency-room approach to education —one that addresses only the parts of a child thought to be in most dire need of attention. Their curriculum may consist solely of reading, writing and mathematics – the subjects tested on high-stakes exams.

Ms. Strauss notes how, for privately funded and operated schools, the approach to the arts can be starkly different. These schools proudly highlight the arts and their importance to developing well-rounded students and individuals. With adequate funding, arts learning opportunities are not only available but celebrated.

Boy playing steel drum

Young Audiences has seen this disparity in access to the arts in Maryland and is striving to close the gap so that all students have the chance to learn in and through the arts. Since its launch in the winter of 2009, our Access for All Initiative has subsidized programs for students in low-income Baltimore City Public Schools to ensure that all students have equitable access to the best artists and educational arts experiences that our state has to offer. The initiative offers three rounds of grant funding each school year to schools that serve a majority of low-income students and do not have regular arts programming.

Young Audiences awarded a total of $29,600 in funding to 16 Baltimore City schools in the first round of Access for All grants awarded earlier this week to start the 2014-2015 school year. These funds will be used to bring Young Audiences artists and ensembles to students through arts-in-education programs this fall. Schools can choose from a steel drum assembly, creating a ceramic mural during an artist-in-residence program, an African drumming workshop, and many more.

Ms. Strauss summarizes why the arts are critical to the education process, writing:

Arts transport. It’s often said they are an essential part of what makes us human – and an element of that is the ability to imagine another reality, apart from the one we are living, a skill essential to resilience and ambition. Children already living a in a narrowed world need more access to the arts, not less.

Young Audiences agrees. One day, every school–no matter its resources–will value the arts for their ability to inspire and engage students in learning. Until then, we will be working to increase access to the arts so that Maryland students have the opportunity to imagine, create, and realize their full potential through the arts.

Learn more about the Access for All Initiative and the next grant application deadline.