by Stacie Sanders Evans, Young Audiences/Arts for Learning Executive Director
I was reminded of my friend Deborah Bedwell, the former executive director of Baltimore Clayworks, this week when I visited my daughter Virginia’s classroom to observe a workshop led by Tori Bertocci of Synetic Theater. Deborah wrote an article back in 2001 called “Measuring Joy,” which detailed her journey of trying to arrive at measurable outcomes in her work while remaining true to the spirit of her organization or, as Deb put it, “not lying” to the funders who were increasingly asking to quantify the impact of Baltimore Clayworks on humanity. Deb decided the best course of action was to come up with a way to measure the joy created by touching clay. I was new to Maryland and to Young Audiences when I came across this article.
“How rebellious!” I thought and I went on my way and on my own journey of trying to establish a connection between our work and academic outcomes. Deb’s evaluation tool and the article that accompanied it, has stuck with me for more than a decade—through No Child Left Behind, the adoption of the Common Core and new standardized assessments and teacher evaluations. When it came time to select a school for my own child, I ignored test results and walked through many school hallways and sat in many classrooms…simply looking for joy.
The second graders at Virginia’s school are currently studying fairytales so we thought it would be a good time to bring in the Washington, D.C.-based group Synetic Theater for a classroom workshop. Synetic Theater specializes in physical theater, blending elements of gymnastics, dance, improvisation, mime, and acting. Through teaching the four elements—body, emotion, focus, and imagination—they brought different interpretations of the classic fairytale “Cinderella” to life.
“They are SO happy!” Virginia’s teacher said to me. “Even the kids who aren’t happy are happy.” I looked at my daughter’s amazing teacher, and while she is always happy, and beloved by her students and their parents, she was especially happy that morning relishing the joy she saw on her students’ faces. At that moment I wished I had Deb’s observation tool with me because the joy in that classroom was off the charts.
While I believe, and research shows, that the arts positively impact student achievement, I understand that part of the secret sauce of learning in or through the arts is the simple joy that it creates. The joy these students experience give teachers and parents that same feeling of joy when witnessing this act, and this in turn creates a joyful learning environment. It is in this environment that kids and adults alike are more likely to look beyond any constraints and envision—and act on—something better for themselves and each other.
Richard Deasy, the founding director of Arts Education Partnership, has told me many times, “You can’t make a learner learn. It is the decision of the learner.” What Young Audiences teaching artists and teacher partners do is offer approaches in which the student wants to learn. We saw that in Virginia’s class of 26 students who were opting into learning at that moment because of the joy derived from physical theater.
Let’s imagine something better for our children in public education –something better but something also very basic — joyful learning environments — where kids, parents, and teachers are eager to engage. YA aims to do this every year through its mission. Won’t you join us in the cause?
The Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) has developed two new three-hour professional development workshops designed for both new and established artists and teaching artists.
The winter 2016 workshop will be led by TAI Co-facilitator (TAICO) Laura Zam and focuses on helping teaching artists navigate the Common Core. The spring 2016 workshop, led TAI Co-facilitator (TAICO) Valerie Branch, will give artists the tools to keep art in the classroom by improving teacher-student relationships and classroom management.
February 10: Making the Common Core Friendly, Meaningful and Fun
At the heart of a teaching artist’s practice is a personal relationship to the art itself. And yet, this often feels compromised as they conform to schools, standards, and testing. Can school-based work be more artistically satisfying—not just for students, but for the teaching artist? On February 10, 2016, TAI Co-facilitator Laura Zam aims to answer this question during Making the Common Core Friendly, Meaningful and Fun, a workshop designed for new and established teaching artists. Laura will break down the Common Core—making it much easier to master—and help teaching artists connect this content to the deepest levels of their artistry.
May 16: Classroom 101: Breaking Down Your Art Form
On May 16, 2016, TAI Co-facilitator Valerie Branch will guide artists through the elements within their respective art form and demonstrate how art can improve classroom management and teacher-to-student relationships. In Classroom 101: Breaking Down Your Art Form, artist participants will learn how to break down their art form into simple, yet powerful strategies that allow the flexibility to work with students and teachers of varying abilities. Artists will leave with the tools for keeping art in the classroom—and have their teacher-partners embrace it!
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Both workshops are limited to 20 participants. The cost to attend each workshop is $25 for non-YA artists and free for YA roster artists. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration is required.
Making the Common Core Friendly, Meaningful and Fun
When: Wednesday, February 10, 2016 from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Where: The Dream House – 1430 Carswell St, Baltimore, MD 21218
Classroom 101: Breaking Down Your Art Form
When: Monday, May 16, 2016 from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Where: The Dream House – 1430 Carswell St, Baltimore, MD 21218
By Dr. Sherrie Norwitz, Instrumental String Music Teacher, Thomas Jefferson Elementary Middle
Art and aesthetics are crucial to the foundation of society. Arts education provides children the opportunity to be exposed to–and develop their own–appreciation of beauty in their world. Art is a way to transmit the values of the society. Through the arts, children learn about their community, helping to provide them with a context for their lives within their communities, and become active participants in helping to create their communities. Arts experiences open doors to children, allowing them to say, “I am touched by this. I am a part of this beauty. I created this. I shared my creation. This has meaning to me.”
Sequential education in the arts is a crucial component in a child’s education. Learning about and through the arts gives students ownership of skills and knowledge to become active participants in society through creative expression and communication.
It is important to me for students to experience the integration of the arts across the curriculum and the varying natural connections that are inherent between the arts and their core curriculum subjects. This arts integration approach supports the learning of core curriculum subjects, reaches a wide-range of learners, provides authentic real world experiences that directly involve students in the act of creating, provides opportunities for collaboration, and supports the development of 21st Century Skills through the Common Core and Career Ready Standards.
Through our partnerships with Arts Every Day and Young Audiences, our school community is finding its way in creating a comprehensive arts integration program. With the support of our principal, Ms. Henry, we feel that we have a very strong foundation for our program’s growth and development.
This year we began by extending the arts-integrated approach to learning beyond the artist-in-residence program which we had previously brought to our students. Working with Young Audiences, we created a Resident Teaching Artist position for the year to allow for the continued presence of a teaching artist within our school. Our Resident Teaching Artist, Young Audiences artist Kwame Opare, performed with his ensemble, DishiBem G.R.O.W. during school-wide assemblies, and provided workshops to fifth- through eighth-grade students. Kwame also provided our teachers professional development in arts integration to help answer their questions, provide guidance, calm apprehensions, and worked with teachers during collaborative teaching days to bring arts integration directly to the students in their classrooms.
Partnering with Young Audiences to provide such a variety of programs throughout the year ensured that we incorporated arts integration best practices and included all of our grade levels–preschool to grade 8–in these art experiences. Being an International Baccalaureate School (IB) also helped support our way forward in the interdisciplinary learning of arts integration.
Arts integration and arts-enhanced learning is happening in many ways in different classes. Among our activities, students have drawn Grecian vases as part of their Ancient Civilizations unit, they have dramatized stories through dance, applied music notation to learning fractions, used music to help understand number columns, made connections between literature and music while dancing “The Nutcracker,” and created a paper Freedom Quilt.
We have developed a rhythm of arts integration at Thomas Jefferson. We are working to create an environment where everywhere you look, the arts are happening, where the arts are for everyone at the school and where connections with the arts can be made throughout a student’s day. Having a sense of continuity of arts experiences helps create a feeling of expectation of such experiences for both students and teachers. There is a developing sense school-wide that the arts and arts integration “is what we do.” We look to have the arts not as “special” but as a continuing presence in our daily school life, where learning can take place through the arts. There is something for everyone–for students in all grades covering a variety of subjects, and for teachers to feel supported with our teaching artists and our partnerships with Arts Every Day and Young Audiences.
Artistic energy invigorates the school environment, developing our professional skills as teachers and invigorating learning for students.
The Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) is made possible in partnership with Young Audiences, Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance (AEMS), and the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC). TAI partners and generous sponsors, like the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, provide funding and support that make this training opportunity accessible to all qualified artists.
Taylor DeBoer, Communications Manager for the Deutsch Foundation, joined us for the first day of the 2013 TAI Seminar retreat last week and shared his experience on the foundation’s blog. Check it out!