Growing Up Green at Mount Rainier Elementary School

Children in Prince George’s County Public Schools know how to celebrate Earth Day! Through Growing Up Green, a PGCPS arts integration initiative, children in kindergarten classrooms learn environmental stewardship by experiencing nature first-hand, marveling in the wonders of our natural world, and nurturing a passion within themselves to respect and preserve it. 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.

At Mount Rainier Elementary School recently, YA roster artist Pam Negrin worked with young students to record their own observations of plant life over the course of her residency, The Life Cycle of Plants. On outdoor adventures, the class immersed themselves in the drama of nature. They set out to identify and explore the many characteristics of plant life in all of its forms: seeds, seedlings, mature plants, flowers, and fruit. Their drawings and observations were then rendered in colorful yarn, stitch by stitch into one large-scale embroidered mural for their entire school community to learn from and enjoy.

The children’s work serves as a reminder of one of the biggest lessons even our smallest students can teach us. Just as this kindergarten class’ finished mural is a collaborative effort, so is making our world a safe, strong, and healthy one for every living being. Happy Earth Day to all.

Pam Negrin’s artwork includes embroidery, appliqué, drawing, collage, improvisational quilting, printmaking and sculpture. Her residencies transform classrooms into creative and collaborative handwork studios where students create something beautiful together. Schedule one of Pam’s residencies for your classroom.

“You Are All Now 6th Graders!”

Credit: Rebecca Dupas Photography
Credit: Rebecca Dupas Photography

On an early Saturday morning this past fall, Drew Anderson, a hip hop artist, slam poet, screenwriter, producer and veteran school teacher, stood up in front of a sunny classroom filled with teaching artists and commanded:

“You are all now 6th graders!”

That’s how most mock lessons begin at Young Audiences’ Teaching Artist Institute (TAI); a weekend retreat giving Young Audience Teaching Artists and School Teachers the skills they need to maximize the huge potential of arts integration for students in classrooms.

Drew’s bold command at first surprises, but quickly shifts observing teaching artists into the mindset of a student absorbing an unexpected, uncommon classroom experience. A teaching artist himself, Drew asks his “students” to listen to Michael Jackson and break down the beat, eventually re-writing verses with science vocabulary taught by his teacher partner in the classroom, Justin Leonard. The two make an exceptional team, as both have backgrounds in public science education. They smoothly interchange directing the classroom, keeping students engaged – a flow reminiscent of Drew’s own performances on stage.

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Teaching artist Drew Anderson and science teacher Justin Leonard co-teach their mock lesson “Spoof School” for TAI faculty and teaching artists.
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Drew Anderson introduces Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as the starting beat.

The experience is one of two Common Core compatible arts-integrated performance residencies Drew created at TAI: “C.R.U.N.K. Academy” and “Spoof School” – bridging his longtime passions for performing and teaching.

Here’s an excerpt from Drew for the first lesson of his residency:

The first step is to pick a good song to spoof. It is important to pick a song that is catchy and easily recognizable with simple lyrics. As technology guru, Mr. Leonard will record and project the students’ suggestions for spoof criteria and will play a few songs asking students to put their thumbs up or down to indicate whether the song would be easy or difficult to spoof. Students defend their responses and the creation of replacement lyrics begins!

“TAI

 forever altered my understanding of what it is to be a  teaching artist.

I learned more than I knew there was to know about arts integration and teaching artistry. I felt utterly enhanced in the realm of mind-shaping magic as if I’d been given a spell book of scholarly sorcery. I learned how to more dynamically apply my art form to educational content, how to break down my creative process for students and teachers, and how to connect my artform to 21st Century Skills, Maryland Art Standards, and the Common Core Curriculum. Every engaging exercise, helpful strategy, and supportive piece of advice from the superb staff and my equally excited peers confirmed that I had found where I belonged.

I am now prepared to convert all the potential energy hidden in classrooms into explosive kinetic energy, using engaging assemblies and super-charged residencies! I’ve been an educator and performing artist for my entire adult life and have observed the changes in both worlds. Gone are the days when students are programmed with rote memorization of stale “facts.” Employers want workers who can think on their feet and on their own. This ever-evolving environment needs young entrepreneurs armed with the creativity to solve problems that have yet to appear. Through its audacity, its abstractions, its “aliveness,” art activates parts of the brain that any teacher or employer should want to turn on. You might find yourself “shocked” at how much electricity comes from the marriage of art and education!”

Young Audiences' Sun

Interested in learning more about TAI? Click here!