Rock and Roll and Learn: smARTbeats returns with Elias Schutzman

smARTbeats returns to WTMD this Saturday, March 10 during the weekly children’s program Young At Heart! On this month’s segment, host Lisa Mathews sits down for a chat with Young Audiences teaching artist and internationally renowned resident rock and roll drummer Elias Schutzman!

For over five years, Elias has been performing interactive story-telling assemblies in public schools throughout Maryland, and in 2016, began enchanting Maryland’s youngest students and enriching learning in Pre-K and kindergarten classrooms through his work with Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts. Last summer, he joined the ranks of teaching artists in YA’s groundbreaking Summer Arts & Learning Academy, immersing Baltimore City children from Title 1 schools in an engaging arts-rich program that sends children back to school in the fall ahead, inspired, and ready to learn.

“Music is a universal language that touches us all. It’s food for the soul,” says the artist. “Through song, rhythm, and storytelling, I hope to release the young imagination to explore here, there and everywhere.”

When not in the classroom, you can find Elias playing drums in venues all over the world with The Flying Eyes and Black Lung. The Baltimore native attended the Baltimore School for the Arts and went on to receive a BA in Theatre from the University of Maryland, College Park, leading him to work with local theatre companies such as Center Stage, Everyman Theatre and most recently the Baltimore Rock Opera Society.

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.

Listen to YA teaching artist and musician Elias Schutzman online now!

YA Teaching Artist Elias Schutzman (standing, center) leads his students in their culminating performance at the 2017 Summer Arts Learning Academy.

Changing Perceptions: I Used to Think…

Before: “I used to think…”  Head Start teachers in Southern Maryland wrote down their ideas about art in education before completing the professional development course led by YA teaching artists.

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

Colorful sticky notes adorned the walls of the classroom. Like before-and-after photos of an amazing remodel, the notes told the story of how a group of Head Start teachers in Southern Maryland unveiled their hidden talents to reach their young students through the arts. The ‘before’ stickies began, “I used to think…” Teachers filled in the rest of the sentence with thoughts such as, “dance, music and theatre weren’t that effective,” or “movement and story time could not go together,” and “it was hard to integrate the arts into the classroom.”

Then, as Young Audiences teaching artists demonstrated techniques that blend learning and the arts, the Head Start classroom teachers began making their own artistic/educational connections – connections that would help them return to their classrooms and engage kids in ways they had been hesitant to trust before. They soon realized that when kids are singing, dancing, and moving, it’s easy for them to forget that they’re actually learning!

Khaleshia Thorpe-Price (center)

The Professional Development course was held on February 17th and sponsored through the PNC Grow Up Great® initiative. Created to help children from birth through age five develop a passion for learning that lasts a lifetime, the program generously funded training that provided Head Start teachers with a variety of resources to increase learning, engagement and confidence by incorporating art into the curriculum.

Three YA teaching artists, musician Lisa Mathews, actor Khaleshia Thorpe-Price, and dancer Anna Menendez, taught the group. They learned, for example, how to use dance tools to create patterns, how to use their bodies and musical instruments to express themselves, and how the use of props and different character voices can more fully engage students in story time. At the end of the class, each teacher was tasked with writing and presenting a lesson seed in each art form for when the class reassembled in May.

Lisa Mathews uses puppets to encourage solo/group singing

“It was very evident from their participation on the first day and their reflections on the second day that teachers were excited about these arts strategies and implemented them immediately,” explained Kristina Berdan, YA’s Education Director. “Having strong backgrounds in social and emotional learning, they were able to quickly experience and understand the impact that the arts can have on this kind of growth in young people. Most of them tap into the arts regularly through chants and songs, yet these professional development opportunities allowed them to learn deeper, more meaningful strategies in and through the arts. The ‘ah-ha’s and feelings of excitement were palpable!”

After: “Now I think…” Teachers reflected on what they learned and how teaching through the arts can inspire learning.

For some, wariness about the role arts could play in the classroom had been replaced with a newfound willingness to incorporate them into their lesson plans. Through the introduction of dramatic play and puppetry, for example, students had a greater understanding of the stories they read in class than they did before the professional development course. One Head Start teacher, Jessica Wiley, summed up her experience in YA’s Professional Development class this way, “The ideas and suggestions were practical, applicable, and personalized. I love how Young Audiences was able to address our questions, challenges and concerns very well.”

The teachers ended the day completing sentences on sticky notes that began, “Now I think…” Their statements showed how their opinions about using the arts as a tool for learning had evolved from hesitancy to a feeling of openness and anticipation, writing, “you can use music in all areas of teaching,” and “dance can be a calming technique,” or “movement in story time is helpful to keep children engaged.”

For Maryland’s youngest students, the new strategies will be especially impactful. “Head Start supports our nation’s most vulnerable children by offering a comprehensive, high quality early-learning experience that prepares them for kindergarten and strengthens family participation in their children’s learning,” said Yasmina S. Vinci, executive director, National Head Start Association.

Like any successful renovation, the before-and-after sticky notes showed what can be created when you effectively blend harmonious elements – education and the arts – to capture a child’s natural desire to learn.

Maryland Wolf Trap Residency with Katherine Lyons

Mrs. Lee and Ms. Lyons
Katherine Lyons and Mrs. Lee

Unique and innovative arts-based strategies are captivating young audiences in Maryland classrooms. At Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore City, the very youngest students are excited to connect to literature with actress and master teaching artist Katherine Lyons through movement and theater as part of a Maryland Wolf Trap residency.

Students pin predictions on a clothesline

Katherine creates what she describes as “hands-on, multi-sensory story experiences” by having children actively participate in the telling of the story. Physical motions are assigned to important objects and costumes help illustrate characters. To prepare for Katherine’s arrival on this day, Pre-K teacher Mrs. Lee asked her students to draw what they think will happen in the story. They hung one prediction on a clothesline.

Now, at the front of the room, between Katherine and Mrs. Lee sits a ‘story box’ filled with clues describing the characters in the story. One by one, a student pulls from the box a tool or an article of clothing, then the class takes turns guessing who the clues belong to.

a chef and an artist
a mail carrier

As each character is identified, one student hangs a picture representing the character on the clothesline and another student becomes the character. The students use each of their senses to connect to the story, made ever more lively through the introduction of gestures, chants, and props. “Costumes help bring the story to life,” Mrs. Lee said. “The class is more interested and invested in story time when they get to use props and act it out.”

Farmers Digging and Planting
Mimicking the movements a character makes (digging and planting)

Once story time is completed, Katherine and Mrs. Lee begin planning lessons that they will co-teach. Every Wolf Trap program includes embedded professional development to build teachers’ skills and confidence in arts integration techniques. Teaching artists work with classroom teachers to learn effective ways to engage students in participatory activities that involve all the senses and encourage critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration. This ensures that the arts remain a strong part of the classroom teachers’ lessons long after the residency ends.

Mrs. Lee plans to continue to use these new strategies during an instruction block that includes literacy, social studies and science, but she’s excited to try them out in other areas of the curriculum as well. “I may use the story box with some counting stories and to help illustrate word problems in math!”

assigning a gesture for a box with a top

Eighty-five percent of brain development occurs during the first five years of a child’s life. Participation in the arts encourages positive growth in a child’s emotional, physical, intellectual, creative, and social development. As the Maryland affiliate of the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, Young Audiences expands access to the arts for Maryland’s youngest students during the critical early learning years. Bring a Maryland Wolf Trap 16-Session Residency into your school.

YA and Wolf Trap Present ‘Beautiful Surprises’ at 2016 Arts Education Partnership National Forum

Beautiful Surprises
A scene from “Beautiful Surprises,” a short documentary highlighting how arts-integrated learning can have a powerful —and sometimes unexpected— impact on students and educators through the Maryland Wolf Trap Early Learning Through the Arts Program.

The Arts Education Partnership, a national network of organizations, is dedicated to advancing the arts in education through research, policy, and practice. Its annual conference, Arts Education Partnership National Forum: The Arts Leading the Way to Student Success, Oct. 5-7 in Denver, Colo., draws some of the nation’s most influential arts and education leaders. Attendees convene to explore arts-centered solutions as states across the country implement higher learning expectations aimed at ensuring America’s young people leave high school ready for college, careers, and citizenship.

The AEP National Forum provides a valuable platform for examining rigorous research, promising education policy, and effective practices designed to significantly improve student outcomes, both during the school day and out-of-school time. Young Audiences/Arts for Learning of Maryland and Arts for Learning/Miami are joining the Wolf Trap Institute to present Beautiful Surprises: Reaching Learners with Special Needs through Arts Integration to attendees of this year’s conference.

During the session, panelists from Wolf Trap and Young Audiences will share the short-film “Beautiful Surprises,” explore the substantial benefits of early childhood arts integration for learners with disabilities, and provide ten steps to designing an inclusion program. Panelists include:

Jennifer Cooper
Director, Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts

Kurtis Donnelly
Director, Maryland Wolf Trap
Chief Operating Officer, Young Audiences of Maryland

Betsy Mullins
Director, South Florida Wolf Trap
Artist Services Director, Arts for Learning, Miami

Sue Trainor
Master Teaching Artist, Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts

Arts integration is a valuable tool for reaching multiple learning styles across the curriculum and is linked to enhanced academic outcomes and social/emotional development, including for children with special needs. Wolf Trap Institute affiliates Young Audiences/Arts for Learning of Maryland and Arts for Learning/Miami are both making great strides in their communities by providing intensive inclusion training for teaching artists.

Learn more about our work in early childhood education through the Maryland Wolf Trap program. Get more information on the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) National Forum: The Arts Leading the Way to Student Success and join the conversation online with #AEPNF16.

Growing Up Green: Hip-Hop Poetry and Composting

 Growing Up Green: Poetry and Composting

Growing Up Green: Hip-Hop Poetry and Composting

Teaching Our Youngest Learners Environmental Citizenship Through the Arts
Part 2: Local Ecosystems

This Spring, Young Audiences wrapped up the initial phase of its pilot programming for Prince George’s County Public School District’s new arts integration initiative, Growing Up Green. We introduced the program in an earlier blog post, but here is a refresher for those who missed it:

The initiative is part of an exciting new partnership between Young Audiences/Arts for Learning and Prince George’s County Public Schools and is funded in part by a BGE Green Grant and the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The program engages kindergarteners in meaningful and authentic outdoor experiences that help connect them to their local ecosystems and inspire them to learn more about protecting our environment. The arts provide the vehicle that the students use to demonstrate and communicate their understanding to the greater learning community of their school.

Bomani, a Young Audiences Teaching Artist, began his pilot program by using poetry to investigate the process of composting with five groups of Kindergarten classes at three different schools: John Hanson Montessori, Oxon Hill Elementary, and Benjamin Foulois Creative and Performing Arts Academy. Over 80 kindergarteners had the opportunity to literally get their hands dirty in hands-on learning while understanding everything from what type of trash can be composted to why we need to grow food. Read on to hear more about Poetry and Composting from Bomani:

“Growing Up Green was a learning experience for me. I had done residences with kindergarteners before, but never where the final project had to narrate a sequence. Usually, when I’m working with kindergarteners, we are having fun working with rhyming words, and we can make up definitions for them and write like Dr. Seuss, creating an imaginary world.

This workshop offered something new, a tangible, in-your-hands experience that’s different from my usual history- or social studies-based residencies. But what is the root of this imaginary world for this particular workshop? We start with a shared experience.

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Students learn the ingredients and components to the composting process. I asked the students what they already knew, and then we would question and discuss the most important things. It doesn’t really matter what the subject is, as long as kids have a shared experience to draw from, all getting to feel, touch, smell, discuss; when we start throwing out ideas, we can better interact with each other.

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 like composting.

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One student would forget one part, and another would remember and say, ‘Oh you forgot the part about adding the paper!’ And they would all respond ‘oh yeah!’ and a conversation about the process of composting would develop further, which would inevitably lead to other discussions surrounding composting, like ‘Why do we need more trees? Why do we compost in the first place? Why and where do we grow food?”

The writing process began with the teachers and I adding the “odd” lines — the first line — and then students brainstormed the second line for the couplet, coming up with the rhyming components. At first, I was worried about how heavy-handed the adults in the room would need to be for it to make sense, but the students came up with some amazing things! Here’s a great example:

“Put holes in the bin so the worms get air,
Holes in the bin show worms you care,
Put strips of paper and some leaves,
Paper and leaves come from trees,
Add food scraps and coffee grinds,
You just need some time
Put the top back on, they don’t like sun,
Composting is very fun!”

Usually, there’s one student in every class that starts off really nervous about moving their body, using their voice or raising their hand. One young lady at John Hanson Montessori was very quiet at first but over the course of the class, her teacher came up to me and said, “She’s completely opened up!” With younger students, they typically have less fear than older kids, but for many of these children, English is a second language so it’s sometimes hard to communicate quickly or expressively.

This one student was able to open up because I kept repeating, ‘someone tell me a bad idea’ or ‘someone say something that’s not exactly right yet, but you think it’s almost there.’ Giving the young lady that freedom made it easier for her to open up. She would raise her hand and say something, and I would say ‘Oh! That’s not quite right, but please keep trying, I love where you are going with that! Rethink that, talk to your neighbor and come back to me.’ She got used to the idea of not being afraid of the wrong answer because we are all collectively looking for the right set of words.

There’s a line in one of the songs where they rhymed the word “word’ with “serve” as a near-rhyme. The teachers all agreed that “serve” was not the easiest to rhyme with, but when we asked the kids to vote, they picked “serve,” so we went with it! I prepped the kids for this more difficult rhyme, saying ‘you know, if it doesn’t work out, it’s okay, we can always back-track, but since you all voted on it, we’ll try it out and see how it works.’ I let them huddle up, and I got back a whole bunch of excellent ideas about how to use the word ‘serve’! Below is the final line we used in the poem:

Composting is how we serve, and we use this rap to spread the word!

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One of the side effects of this workshop, let alone the main idea of composting, is that it gets kids really excited about words and about articulating thoughts. Kindergarteners were constantly trying to find ways to tie in words to create new ideas, really stretching themselves and questioning the meaning of words.

In all honestly we probably did underestimate the ability of one 6-year-old to use ‘serve’ in a rhyme, but with 30 of them together all talking about it, they figured it out! Each rap came out really well!

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Teaching Children Not to Be Afraid of Giving the Wrong Answers

Ever wondered why kids say they’re bored at school, or why they stop trying when the work gets harder? In this essential video on Fixed vs. Growth mindsets, Educationalist Carol Dweck explains how the wrong kind of praise actually *harms* young people. This short video is essential viewing for everyone — from teachers and education workers to relatives and friends — which promotes GROWTH rather than “fixed” mindsets in students.

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Help Fund This Program!

Your tax-deductible donation will help support programs like Growing Up Green.

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Donor Spotlight: T. Rowe Price Foundation

Since 1950, Young Audiences of Maryland (YA) has significantly expanded the availability of educational and culturally diverse art programs for Baltimore City youth. YA’s programs are delivered in multiple settings including schools, libraries, and community centers. In 2013, YA grew its capacity to serve our youngest students by becoming the sole Maryland affiliate of the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts. Wolf Trap, the National Park for the Performing Arts, has spent the last 30 years developing the 16-session arts-based residency model, which supports improved literacy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) skills in early learners.

During the residency, trained teaching artists work with classroom teachers through a comprehensive modeling and collaborative co-teaching approach to build teachers’ arts-integration knowledge and skills and enable them to incorporate new practices in their classrooms. A 2006 Wolf Trap study¹, supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Education, showed that preschool students whose teachers participated in Wolf Trap residencies grew in every measured area and strengthened their math, literacy, creativity, and social and emotional skills.

In 2014-15 alone, Young Audiences served 52 teachers—and 1,163 Baltimore City pre-k and kindergarten students—through the Wolf Trap residency program. The T. Rowe Price Foundation has been a longstanding supporter of YA and, more recently, the Wolf Trap Early Learning classroom residency program. Since its founding in 1981, the T. Rowe Price Foundation has worked closely with nonprofits to identify innovative solutions that improve educational outcomes for youth and enrich community life. YA is grateful to the T. Rowe Price Foundation for supporting our work for nearly 20 years and for helping to launch the Wolf Trap initiative in Baltimore.

T.Rowe-Price-FoundationAccording to John Brothers, the Foundation’s president, “We have been pleased to support YA and its mission of integrating arts into the educational process, particularly for children who have limited exposure to the arts. The classroom residency program is backed by research and the Wolf Trap Institute’s ongoing commitment, and it aligns with the Foundation’s desire to support innovative practices that enhance educational opportunities and outcomes for youth.”

Through the combined efforts of YA and the T. Rowe Price Foundation, Baltimore City’s youngest low-income students have a greater opportunity to gain the skills and knowledge that they need to succeed in school and in life.

Learn more about how our Wolf Trap classroom residencies can motivate and empower early learning teachers and their students!

For more information about the T. Rowe Price Foundation, please visit their website.

¹Klayman, D. (2006). Executive summary of the final evaluation report for Fairfax pages professional development project: An effective strategy for improving school readiness. Potomac, MD: Social Dynamics.

Growing Up Green: The Life Cycle of Plants

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

Part One: The Life Cycle of Plants

Growing Up Green

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

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

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

Growing Up Green

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

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

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

Growing Up Green

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

Growing Up Green

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

Growing Up Green

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

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

Video: Growing Up Green @ Rockledge Elementary

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

Support Young Audiences on This #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday

Do you have a favorite childhood arts experience? Do you believe the arts should be a part of every child’s education?

Consider #GivingTuesday as an opportunity to support Young Audiences/Arts for Learning as a way to provide thousands of Maryland students—from Pre-K to 12th Grade—with inspiring, engaging, and transformational arts experiences.

Young Audiences’ roster of more than 100 professional teaching artists provides thousands of arts learning experiences to more than 450 schools and community organizations in every corner of Maryland, reaching over 180,000 students.

#GivingTuesday

Support Young Audiences of Maryland with your tax-deductible donation.

Your support of Young Audiences ensures that we can: 

  • Bring the arts into schools all year long by partnering with dozens of professional artists who live in our very own communities, whether they are musicians, dancers, actors, playwrights, poets, or potters, and giving them the opportunity to do what they do best—perform, create, and inspire.
  • Reach schools in rural counties and urban areas, and schools that serve students with special needs by creating access to the arts and lowering financial barriers.
  • Train artists by helping them understand how to use their art as a tool to teach children of all abilities and how to work in different settings—from preschool to high school, in school or after-school.
  • Train teachers of all subject areas to use the arts as a way to engage students in the learning process and reach different kinds of learners with proven arts integration techniques.

Learn more>> What Your Gift Supports

Consider Joining the Solstice Club

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Join the Solstice Club as a Monthly Donor

Through monthly donations, the Solstice Club provides Young Audiences with a consistent and reliable source of funding that allows us to plan ahead—bringing light all twelve months of the year.

When you join the Solstice Club, you will join a special group of people who provide a monthly donation—of $10 or more—to support arts programs for students and professional development for teachers.

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YA Forges New Arts Integration Partnership

Young Audiences and Prince George's County Public Schools Forge New Arts Integration Partnership

A teacher from Oxon Hill Middle School personally thanked Young Audiences during a post-event gathering for bringing the Literature to Life program to Prince George’s schools. After a performance of “Black Boy,” a verbatim adaptation and stage performance of the classic American literary work by Richard Wright, he said he saw one of his students carrying around the Richard Wright book. When he asked the student about it, the student said he decided to read it after seeing the performance.  The teacher noted that he didn’t read that book until college and said, “This is what Young Audiences does for our students.”

On November 17, Young Audiences of Maryland and Dr. Kevin Maxwell, CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), announced the launch of a new arts integration partnership at a press conference held at Oxon Hill Middle School.

This new initiative will benefit more than 15,000 Prince George’s County Public School students in the 2015-2016 school year and dramatically increase student student access to the arts.

Dozens of teachers, principals, and PTA members were in attendance, along with school board members and PGCPS district office personnel. The event attracted the attention of local media outlets, including WUSA, a CBS news affiliate station in Washington, D.C., who ran a segment on the new partnership during their morning news coverage on November 17.

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In the true spirit of Young Audiences, this was not your typical “black-tie” press conference. The room was filled with music, dance, laughter, and inspiring stories. Student performances from Oxon Hill Middle School’s Performing Arts Academy opened the event, showcasing the talents of the school’s students through music and dance performances. Young Audiences’ teaching artist Ssuuna engaged the audience in an interactive, call-and-response performance of music from his native Uganda with authentic African instruments.

Young Audiences and Prince George's County Public Schools Forge New Arts Integration Partnership

With media cameras rolling, Dr. Maxwell spoke passionately about the importance of partnering with Young Audiences to bring high-quality arts programs to more PGCPS students. Integrating the arts into classrooms is not only critical to increasing student achievement and engagement; it is an essential component of every student’s education and maximizes the talents of all students.  Dr. Maxwell’s belief in the importance of the arts-in-education—and the exceptional teaching artists and arts-in-education programs that Young Audiences provides—will ensure that all students have the opportunity to experience this critical part of their education.

Stacie Evans, Young Audiences’ Executive Director, echoed Dr. Maxwell’s remarks, saying:

We believe that artists are catalysts in our schools. Through their art form they develop new approaches to teaching the curriculum. They inspire children. They help reach the most reluctant and struggling learners. From the beginning, Dr. Maxwell made it clear that the arts are a priority and he welcomed community partners to be part of the solution to ensure that our kids receive a complete education.  As a result, 15,000 more students are benefiting from Young Audiences programs this school year alone.

Additional speakers included Mr. Wendell Coleman, Oxon Hill Middle School Principal; John Ceschini, Arts Integration Officer for PGCPS; and Tracey Cooper, Oxon Hill Middle School science teacher.

Young Audiences and Prince George's County Public Schools Forge New Arts Integration Partnership

Young Audiences’ teaching artist Kevin Martin closed out the event with a steel drum ensemble of Oxon Hill Middle School students.  These students—who jumped on stage to perform just hours after learning to play the steel drums—soon became the teachers. The steel drum performance culminated with Kevin inviting audience members, including Dr. Maxwell, to join a student at their drum and follow the student’s lead in learning the song.

A teacher from Oxon Hill Middle School personally thanked Young Audiences during a post-event gathering for bringing the Literature to Life program to Prince George’s schools. After a performance of “Black Boy,” a verbatim adaptation and stage performance of the classic American literary work by Richard Wright, he said he saw one of his students carrying around the Richard Wright book. When he asked the student about it, the student said he decided to read it after seeing the performance.  The teacher noted that he didn’t read that book until college and said, “This is what Young Audiences does for our students.

Young Audiences and Prince George's County Public Schools Forge New Arts Integration Partnership

From theatrical productions that bring American literary masterpieces to life, to artist residencies for kindergarten students that inspire environmental citizenship, this new partnership with Prince George’s County Schools significantly increases access to arts learning for thousands of PGCPS students and leverages the talent of 20 teaching artists, the resources of six private and public funders, and advances the goals of PGCPS and YA to transform the lives and education of all students through the arts.

Research shows a direct connection between participation in the arts and student achievement. Research also shows having the arts in schools contributes to positive school culture and builds the creative and critical thinking skills that our workforce needs. Despite these benefits, student access to the arts as part of their education has declined. Young Audiences is honored to partner with Dr. Kevin Maxwell, named a Champion of Change by President Obama for his dedication to the arts, because he is committed to ensuring that PGPCS students are not denied the arts as part of a complete education.

Powering Arts Integration with Innovative Programming
Young Audiences’ programming for PGCPS will combine arts learning with traditional subjects such as science, math, and reading, expand in-school opportunities for professional teaching artists, and include further arts integration advancement through strengthening teacher preparation and professional development. Program areas to include:

GROWING UP GREEN
A Kindergarten-level environmental literacy program that supports a thematic approach and addresses the Maryland Environmental Literacy Curriculum Standards. Curriculum will be developed collaboratively among partner organizations and, following a successful pilot of the program, will later be infused into the kindergarten science and social studies core content areas. Financial support provided by BGE, Chesapeake Bay Trust and Maryland State Arts Council Artist in Residence Program.

LITERATURE TO LIFE
Through our unique combination of interactive theater, literature, and education, Literature to Life brings American literary masterpieces to life —giving voice to words and inspiring young people to find their own voice. Financial support provided by Laura Handman and Harold Ickes, Lisa and Porter Dawson, and other generous supporters.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
A series of professional development workshops designed for schools in their first year of joining the “Arts Integration” initiative. Educators will define and discuss the benefits of arts integrated teaching. After experiencing a sample drama and language arts lesson, teachers will brainstorm and apply creative challenges in their specific curriculum area. Program facilitated by Teaching Artist Institute.

Young Audiences and Prince George's County Public Schools Forge New Arts Integration Partnership

Valerie Branch at Holabird Academy 1

Creative Movement: Movimiento Creativo

Valerie Branch at Holabird Academy 1

By Valerie Branch, Young Audiences and Maryland Wolf Trap teaching artist

Empowering youth through my art form is something that I’m very passionate about. As a dance teaching artist, my role in the classroom is to enhance students’ development in decision-making, communication, and self-confidence through individual and shared movement explorations and experiences. Students learn how to control their impulses and self-manage when it is time to be silly and when it is time to stop and focus.

I recently completed a year-long Maryland Wolf Trap residency at Holabird Academy with teacher partner Ms. Katie Fincke and her pre-kindergarten class of students ages three to six. Our residency specialized in Language Arts with a focus on narratives and storytelling, so Ms. Fincke and I found ways to integrate movement experiences into the curriculum.

We accomplished our major teaching goal by using the elements of dance to help children convey meaning. We did this through a series of six different books that Ms. Fincke read with her students throughout the year. Ms. Fincke and I guided the children through the process of generating imaginative ideas about how to portray and connect to moments in the story through movement. Ms. Fincke’s class had many students whose first language was not English, so our goals uniquely overlapped with language development and vocabulary enhancement.

Valerie Branch quote

Ms. Fincke and I wanted the children to define and understand the meaning of creative movement. Our dancing activities did not follow the typical routine of me modeling a movement and students mimicking me. It was more about finding a way for me, Ms. Fincke, and the students, to have the experience together. Ms. Fincke and I didn’t want to robotically lead the children by saying, “Arm up, arm up, down, turn, turn!” Instead, it was the children leading us. We would hear, “No, let’s do our arms like this!” or “Let’s move like this! Let’s go here!” Students were given the chance to be creative and collaborate with their teachers and their peers. They were empowered to speak up and share their ideas because dance has no wrong answers. We encouraged our students to improvise without fear because we wanted them to know that their thoughts and ideas were valued. It’s a scary thing to express yourself with your body in front of a crowd. We wanted them to find a comfort level that would allow them to express themselves without limitations.

When I first walked into Holabird Academy, many of the students struggled with understanding personal space, body impulses, and self-confidence in creating and sharing ideas. Ms. Fincke and I have seen so many students flourish during the course of our partnership, but one student who made tremendous strides in social development and leadership was Oscar. We have watched Oscar become a leader and set a great example for his peers. He was never afraid to demonstrate his ideas through dance. He encouraged his peers to make strong independent choices. His classmates have been able to take risks and explore their creativity because they saw Oscar doing just that. Oscar demonstrated his leadership through an activity called the “mirror game,” which required students to slow down their energy and express themselves through dance in a calm and channeling way.

Valerie Branch at Holabird Academy 5

During the mirror game, one student at a time would face the class from the front of the room and then create slow movements with their body. The goal was to get the rest of the class to slowly repeat the leader’s movements as if they were the reflection in a mirror. Oscar really took interest in this activity and whenever he was up at the front of the room, he made sure that his movements were clear for his classmates to follow. Because he took the activity so seriously, there were times when other students would poke fun at him, but he didn’t let it bother him. A great leader is not somebody that forces their own ideas on people, but explores how people can share ideas together. Oscar led this activity with the intention to work with everyone as a team and that trait was very admirable.

What I loved most about working with this group was that I was not only able to teach them, but they were always teaching me. During the first few sessions, we would sing a greeting song in English, but by the third class, I had introduced the song in Spanish, a language I knew most of Ms. Fincke’s class was familiar with. Suddenly, the looks on their faces changed and they realized they knew the words. The kids lit up with excitement when they felt that sense of home and comfort in the classroom. Ms. Fincke and I always took time for the Spanish language and that was important to her students. It was also crucial for Ms. Fincke to take time to do translations and have the kids work together through their language differences.

It was important that we did not tell them to always speak English. Yes, we were in an environment where English was the primary language, but we also wanted them to hold strong to their heritage. Seeing them take ownership of their language was inspiring. We often let them sing and dance in Spanish and those were truly their moments to shine and demonstrate how far they were excelling in the knowledge and understanding of the skills we were sharing with them.

It’s been amazing to watch these students grow, interact with one another, and also feel better about themselves. It’s important to get them thinking about these things at an earlier age because I think that we often forget that children can have problems and stresses, too. We think that they don’t have any issues because they’re young, but our youth go through so much. They are witnesses to everything. They may be young, but they are just as much a part of our world as we are. Using dance and movement to build our youth into better citizens is something that empowers me as an artist.

Learn more about Valerie Branch and her dance programs for schools.

Learn more about Maryland Wolf Trap.

Donor Spotlight: Chris Wallace

The arts were an integral and memorable part of Chris Wallace’s childhood. Her mother, Doris Morgan, an elementary school teacher and learning disabilities specialist, taught both her children and her students with joy, positivity, and an arts-integrative approach. This had a lifelong impact on them all: Chris made the arts a central component in her speech-language pathology work; her sister flourished as a writer; and former students or their parents would often approach Doris, thanking her for the impact she made on their lives and letting her know that they believed she was instrumental in their—or their children’s—success.

Several years ago, Chris was invited to attend Young Audiences’ annual Impact Breakfast, where she was impressed by the extent and impact of Young Audiences’ programs, students’ testimonials, and Executive Director Stacie Sanders Evans. In November 2013, Chris joined the Young Audiences board and, after her mother passed away in early 2014, she and her husband David made a generous, multi-year donation in Doris’ memory. The Doris Morgan Fund supports teaching artists participating in Young Audiences’ Maryland Wolf Trap Early Learning Through the Arts program, a 16-session residency that gives Pre-K students an in-depth experience with an artist as well as providing embedded professional development for teachers, making an impact that extends far beyond the life of the program.

Chris Waallace

At a recent site visit, Chris witnessed her first Wolf Trap residency in action, led by Young Audiences teaching artist and dancer Valerie Branch. On the day of Chris’ visit, the classroom teacher was leading her first arts-integrated lesson, developed after several sessions of collaboration with, and mentorship by, Valerie. Chris was impressed by what she saw, especially the embedded professional development that is an integral part of the Wolf Trap program.

Chris believes that the work that Young Audiences does with Maryland’s youngest learners is essential, and is happy that her mother’s legacy of bringing creativity into the classroom can live on with Young Audiences’ help. We are deeply grateful for the Wallaces’ generosity and are proud to honor Doris Morgan’s life by continuing to supply the resources needed to empower students and teachers in the classroom.

If you have a loved one whose memory you would like to honor, please consider making a donation to Young Audiences in their name, knowing your support will positively impact children’s lives through the arts.

Donor Spotlight: Barbara Howard

“Our main purpose in life as human beings is to help others,” believes Barbara Howard, special education teacher at the William S. Baer School in Baltimore. “When we do that, the blessings come back to us, ten-fold.” Barbara’s journey to teaching was a long one, but she knew, once her mother introduced the idea, that it was exactly where she needed to be.

As evidenced in the 2014 video “Beautiful Surprises,” Barbara is extremely dedicated to her students and cares deeply about helping them realize their full potential, and this is why she became not only a teacher partner, but also a donor. Young Audiences’ acclaimed Maryland Wolf Trap Early Learning Through the Arts 16-Session Residency, with embedded professional development, helps teachers like Barbara to develop arts-integrative teaching skills with proven outcomes. Designed to serve students ages three to five, this program has been a wonderful way to also serve children with disabilities. Working with Wolf Trap has helped Barbara to more effectively reach her students – all of whom learn differently and have unique needs – and build their confidence, while fostering in them a love of learning. As she puts it, “they have a purpose now in becoming successful in whatever they do.”

One student, Raymond, has continued to blossom since Wolf Trap came into his classroom and the Beautiful Surprises video was made. “As soon as Raymond comes into the classroom, he will walk over to the bin of tambourines,” shares Barbara. “He will pull his assigned one out of the bin and begin to play it. He, along with the other six children I teach, is the main reason as to why I rise each morning at 4:30. Sometimes I wonder, who’s teaching whom?”

Barbara Howard Young Audiences is grateful to have the support of dedicated individuals like Barbara, who share with us a vision to help many children flourish like never before.

Join the Solstice Club today by pledging just $10 or more monthly, and your sustaining gift will help Young Audiences to continue to bring exceptional arts programs to students and offer professional development for both teachers and artists.