Some big ideas are meant to be shared. It is through partnership and collaboration that the big ideas grow roots and become an integral part of something even bigger. In 2015, Pat Cruz, YA’s then-chief innovation officer, and educator Mary Kate Bransford had a dream. What if every kindergarten classroom in Prince Georges County Public Schools (PGCPS) had an arts-integrated environmental literacy program?
Their big idea brought together twenty teachers and five teaching artists to write a five-day lesson plan that both met environmental literacy and visual art criteria and explored themes like habitat restoration, local ecosystems, the life cycle of plants, and the lifecycle of animals for a brand new program: Growing Up Green. The program, a partnership between Young Audiences and the Prince Georges County Office of Environmental Literacy, would be piloted in 17 schools in the district in the 2015-16 school year.
That first year resulted in the creation of five separate 5-day arts-integrated environmental literacy lessons. Teaching artists worked side by side with kindergarten teachers all five days of the program with the goal of handing off that role to each individual school’s art teacher in future years. To prepare teachers, Kristina Berdan, Young Audiences Education Director, trained teacher ambassadors, kindergarten lead teachers, and art/music teachers to use the arts as a teaching tool in their classrooms. “I used to think art was a product of a lesson,” said one kindergarten teacher in Prince George’s County Public Schools after being trained in arts integration through Growing Up Green. “Now I think art is the process to achieve the objective.”
The team constantly listened, assessed, reflected, and revised, resulting in a comprehensive catalog of resources for teachers and the refinement of, in the second year, four unique residencies instead of the initial five, and then in its third year, one: Fiber artist Pam Negrin‘s The Lifecycle of Plants. Kindergarteners and their teachers explored nature with their real-life senses—looking, smelling, touching—to not just learn about our natural world, but experience it. Classrooms across the district were outfitted with custom-made embroidery tables where students could gather and stitch their observations, building with and learning from one another. “We think with our hands and when students are immersed in a lesson together, they begin to make their own connections,” said Pam. From sharing what they learned during the school day at home to internalizing and remembering more information, the effects on learning were so profound that once-resistant teachers embraced learning through arts integration and extended it into other content areas.
Growing Up Green combines the arts and time outdoors with making connections between humans and the environment and brainstorming solutions. “The program gets kids outside and thinking about the bigger picture and the combination of all the elements of the program supports the district’s goals,” said James Roberson, PGCPS Instructional Specialist for Environmental Literacy. And after the lessons have ended, classes are left with beautiful embroidered tapestries they can share with the school community. “The tapestries are a great way to showcase what they’ve learned.”
Our state was the first in the nation to approve an environmental graduation requirement for all Maryland students. In 2011, the school board created Environmental Literacy Standards that would support the growth of the planet’s next generation of stewards. Prince George’s County Public Schools is intentionally integrating these standards into the PreK-12 curriculum, and through Growing Up Green, they are successfully reaching the county’s youngest students. This is the first year that PGCPS is running Growing Up Green without Young Audiences’ support. “Young Audiences has been an outstanding partner over the last four years,” said Roberson.
“I’m really impressed by how different teachers have taken what they learned and run with it,” said Jhanna Levin, PGCPS Environmental Literacy Outreach Teacher. As a result of Growing Up Green, teachers in the district’s Autism Program, for instance, have embraced the art of embroidery, the fine motor skills it develops, and the calm it inspires. “It soothes the kids in a way they weren’t expecting.” Levin, new to the department, has taken the reigns of Growing Up Green and nurtured the development of teachers new to the program as well as veteran educators. She is constantly checking in and helping the teachers to do what works best for them.
She is holding a training session this coming January for lead kindergarten teachers to explore additional arts integration techniques for classrooms and it’s not just new teachers who are looking forward to it. “We’re talking about turning T-shirts into yarn and using dance for the observational piece,” said Levin. James Roberson added, “We’re really excited about what Jhanna brings to the program.”
Growing Up Green was a tiny seed that with research and tremendous effort and love, Young Audiences was able to sow. Through the amazing partnership we’ve had with PGCPS, we’ve seen the program evolve and take shape in a way that both works best for the district and stays true to the vision of Growing Up Green at its conception. We are extremely proud to see the district take charge and continue nurturing and developing this incredible program. Levin said, “There are teachers who have done this for three years now and they say, ‘Just give us the materials. We’ve got this.'”
Written by Barbara Krebs,
Young Audiences volunteer and Sunburst Society member
As a pair of dancers performed, a group of elementary school children sat, crisscross applesauce, watching their every move. Valerie Branch, a dancer and choreographer with Young Audiences had been working with the Belle Grove Elementary students in an artist residency made possible through the Arts Empowered Minds Initiative (AEMI). When the last notes faded away, Valerie asked the children what they had observed.
“They love each other,” one child offered.
“They share,” another chimed in.
Then she asked the kids to explain what dancing techniques they had witnessed. “Negative space,” “weight sharing,” and “weight bearing” were some of the answers shouted out.
Next, she gathered a group of her second-grade students to pair off with each other to demonstrate some of those concepts. Once the children had done so, half of the students were instructed to use a frozen pose in a high, medium, or low position. The rest were to react to whatever their partner had created. With the new poses in place, she asked the other children in the assembly to discuss what they saw and how the partners had related to one another.
And, in true arts integration form, this exercise was not just about learning dance terminology and positions, but was tied to lessons at the school. This particular one was used in conjunction with a poetry-writing assignment in which the children described themselves through the creation of “I am” poems. Later, choreography was added to illustrate their autobiographical poetry.
Such was the back-and-forth learning that observers witnessed at the Arts Empowered Minds Announcement Event and Celebration on Friday, March 8. The group of educators, politicians, state and local arts administrators, and volunteers gathered at the school was celebrating a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which will be used to expand arts integration and teacher professional development in Northern Anne Arundel County.
This is the third time that the NEA has awarded Young Audiences, the program’s managing partner, a grant for AEMI. This collaborative partnership between a wide array of arts and education organizations throughout Anne Arundel County seeks to “address the disparity in arts access–and associated gaps in student achievement–between students in Northern Anne Arundel County and the rest of the county.”
Now in its third year, AEMI has already racked up an impressive set of statistics. But even better than the numbers are the inspiring stories that teachers and administrators had to share during the event. Brittany Roger, a teaching artist with a scientific illustration background, spoke of bringing exotic animals (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, iguanas, corn snakes) to the classroom and allowing children to explore the creatures through sight, sound, touch, and smell. Afterward, the students draw and sketch the animals based on their observations.
Amy Goodman, who heads the math department at North County High School, told of her department’s initial skepticism about linking arts and math together. But as the teachers learned arts integration techniques and applied them in the classroom, they began to see students who had been turned off or struggling with math begin to make connections that helped them grasp the concepts they needed to learn.
And so, step by step, AEMI partners create opportunities for children to learn through the arts. Step by step, the Initiative changes minds about the importance of integrating the arts with reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. And, step by step, it makes converts of those who witness how the arts engage young minds and help them stay, not only focused on their education, but truly inspired to learn.
Learn more about the Arts Empowered Minds Initiative, its collective impact partners and the community it serves by visiting artsempoweredminds.org.
Step into a FutureMakers workshop, and you are immediately met with bright colors, texture, and sound! The room is a symphony of whirring and spinning, and you can almost hear the busy minds buzzing. This is exactly the scene in the art room when FutureMakers coaches Topher and Ross taught a series of workshops at Gardenville Elementary recently.
Thanks to programs like the Access for All Initiative and Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) Artist in Residence (AiR) grant, more and more schools are able to bring the high-quality STEAM programming that FutureMakers provides into their classrooms. “We’re so happy to see so many schools leveraging resources from the Maryland State Arts Council,” FutureMakers founder Matt Barinholtz told us. “In 2017, we served nearly 1000 Maryland students through AiR programs – all who were able to increase their understanding of the engineering design process, circuits and visual arts elements by creating artworks that are designed and built to move!”
The goal of each workshop was for every student to create a drawing machine: a small, unique, motorized tripod that doodles and draws as it swirls and whirls across a flat surface. But it would be a mistake to assume that the finished product that students carry away is the only benefit to the session. FutureMakers teaches kids that engineers cooperate and persevere—skills that will take students far.
Coach Topher raised his hand at the front of the classroom and asked, “Who here has ever made something before?” The kids were excited. Some of the materials they received to build their machines, they recognized. Some, they did not. All of them, they had to connect and make work.
Problem-solving and troubleshooting are easy to talk about. “It’s easy to say, ‘try your best,’ but in the moment, it’s the most frustrating thing.” Connecting batteries to motors and transforming them into pieces of art takes patience and skill. “Engineers fix stuff. Usually, they’re fixing stuff they mess up themselves!”
Though students all started on the same path, each robot took on its own distinct personality. Students directed the design of their bots, testing and retesting to see how design elements worked with the functionality of their machines. Through problem solving and teamwork, the young engineers found success.
“FutureMakers knows that integrating quality STEAM programs is essential – and requires support,” said Barinholtz. Funding is available for schools and community organizations that can help all children experience high-quality arts programs.
Bring FutureMakers into your school with the help of a Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) Arts in Education (AiE) grant. The MSAC AiE grant will fund up to 30% of the total cost of a YA residency program, including travel costs. The deadline to apply is Friday, May 19, 2017, by 5 pm. Start the application process today.
Arts integration is a valuable tool for reaching multiple learning styles across the curriculum and is linked to enhanced academic outcomes as well as positive social and emotional development for children. While this is true for all students, studies have found that the impact of the arts on language development and core subject learning is particularly beneficial for students with disabilities or those with special learning needs.
As an inclusive organization, Young Audiences’ goal is to bring high-quality, arts-integrated instruction that is accessible, supportive, and welcoming to children of all backgrounds and abilities into the classroom.
Reality is a social definition. Disability is the social process that turns impairment into a negative by creating barriers to access. Difference should be accommodated and celebrated. You can create new ways to create together by taking into account universal access to creativity.
We are diligently laying the foundation for inclusive practice to be incorporated into arts-integrated curriculum, increasing the opportunities for youth of all abilities to participate in artistically-excellent programs. To help us achieve this goal, our staff received specialized inclusion training through the Inclusive Allies program in partnership with Disability Rights Maryland.
Nine selected roster artists also received training, participating in a comprehensive workshop covering a variety of inclusion tactics to utilize in the classroom. YA Roster Artist and FutureMakers founder Matt Barinholtz observed, “Reality is a social definition. Disability is the social process that turns impairment into a negative by creating barriers to access. Difference should be accommodated and celebrated. You can create new ways to create together by taking into account universal access to creativity.”
YA artists approach this “universal access to creativity” by rethinking the norms behind the ways we allow people to communicate, socialize and behave. We create a culture where all students receive the many benefits of engaging and inclusive arts-integrated classroom experiences, adapting lessons with audio/visual cues and different levels of kinesthetic movement, and applying inclusion tactics.
The following Young Audiences Roster Artists have completed the training as of 2016:
- Future Makers/Matt Barinholtz
- Tori Bertocci (Synetic Theater)
- Skher Brown and the Capoeira is Culture Performers
- Anna Menendez
- Jamaal Collier
- Valerie Branch
- Sue Trainor
- Alden Phelps
- Pam Negrin
In the coming months, we will proudly share artists’, teachers’ and coordinators’ stories about their roles in this important work.
Taste the Arts X:
An evening of performance and culinary art!
Friday, May 6 at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore
The lineup for our 10th annual Taste the Arts Fundraising Gala is set! We’ve put together another fantastic evening featuring award-winning artists and top culinary talent in Baltimore.
The best part? When you buy your ticket, you support Young Audiences’ programs and mission to bring high quality, low-cost arts experiences to Maryland schoolchildren! Last year we delivered arts experiences to 183,153 students in Maryland. With your ticket purchase, we can keep it up – and do even more.
At Taste the Arts, we’ll transform all three levels of The Hippodrome Theatre into a celebration of the arts through live performances and interactive arts experiences, with food and drink served on all three floors. Here’s a taste of what to expect:
Taste delicacies from 25 restaurants:
- Absolutely Perfect Catering
- Alma Cocina Latina
- Argosy Café
- Baltimore Waffle Company
- Blackwater Distilling
- Blue Pit BBQ
- Brio Tuscan Grille
- Charm City Cakes
- Golden West Café
- Heavy Seas Alehouse
- La Cuchara
- Maggie’s Farm
- The Charmery
- The Food Market
- The Hipp Cafe
- The Local Oyster
- The Oceanaire
- The Scratch Mill Kitchen
- Tio Pepe
- Wine from Noble Vintners
- Beer from Union Craft Brewing
On the menu from Clavel is Cochinita Pibil, a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish, with a side of Hex Ferments special slaw. The tapas-inspired menu from La Cuchara features Charred Broccoli Pintxo and Pickled Mushroom Pintxo. The Local Oyster will be shucking out sustainably farm-raised raw oysters. Maggie’s Farm is serving chicken liver pate with fig jam on baguette and Heavy Seas Alehouse brings it home with Smoked Brisket Mac & Cheese. On the sweet side, Baltimore Waffle Co. will serve up Belgian Liege Waffles and Gertrude’s presents a twist on a Baltimore classic with its Berger Cookie Cheesecake. Local winery, Noble Vintners, has graciously donated wine, and Union Craft will be on hand, offering their award-winning brews!
Don’t miss 9 live performances and interactive art demonstrations, including:
A collaborative music production composed and directed by Wendel Patrick, YA Artist and 2015 Baker Artist Award Winner, and performed by Peabody Institute musicians Jahi Alexander, Blair Skinner, Louna Dekker-Vargas, and Yoshi Horiguchi and YA artists Max Bent, Wendel Patrick, and Jamaal Collier—2016 Artist of the Year.
I don’t want to give away TOO much. But at Taste the Arts, I’ll be working with an arrangement from one of my favorite hip hop producers.” —Wendel Patrick, 2015 Baker Artist Award Winner
Get ready for light painting with LED brushes at Taste the Arts! You’ll even be able to email your creation home!” —Matt Barinholtz, FutureMakers
I have had the opportunity to be a performer at several Taste the Arts over the years, and I am excited to be a part of the 10th Taste the Arts gala,” she said. “When my students perform with me at the gala, it is a wonderful experience for them as they get to showcase their talent and culture through their performance to the guests. It is almost as if they are cultural ambassadors.” —Lakshmi Swaminathan, NRITYA, as quoted in the article “Tasty fundraiser hits the Hippodrome” on Avenue News.com
The Magic Balloon is a series of hilarious sketches synthesizing music, ballet, clowning, and audience participation. At Taste the Arts, you’ll discover the art of acting without words and open the door to your imagination. ‘Balloon’ tells a wonderful story of a traveling actor and his magical trunk of tricks and toys.” —Tori Bertocci, Synetic Theater
- Acoustic roots and blues music by Curtis Blues
- Screen painting with John Iampieri
- Performances by Thomas Jefferson Elementary/Middle School’s String Ensemble and Kindergarten ballet dancers
- Kevin Martin of Rockcreek Steel Drums performing with students from the Holistic Life Afterschool Program at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School
Taste the Arts also includes a live and silent auction with one-of-a-kind items and experiences and an awards ceremony honoring Maryland’s arts-in-education leaders, including 2016 Artist of the Year Jamaal Collier, who has more than a decade of professional experience facilitating Hip Hop workshops and live performances across the state.
“I’m thankful to have an effect on kids’ lives and for the effect they have on me. Every human has talent. YA helped me to build skill within that talent. I have become a better artist because of YA.” —Jamaal Collier, 2016 Artist of the Year
Tickets are only $100 and ensure high-quality art experiences for Maryland schoolchildren. We’re expecting hundreds of artists, educators, and arts supporters in attendance and hope to raise $150,000. Get your tickets now!
Can’t make it to Taste the Arts?
You can still be part of our fundraising efforts by bidding on some fantastic items in our online auction—happening now through Thursday, May 5. There are still a bunch of great items available with low or no bids, and several new items were just added this week!
smART Tips is a monthly video series sharing tips for educators who are interested in new, creative ways to use the arts in their classroom with students. See all smART Tips to date here. Interested in a specific topic? Let us know!
During the last two years, our roster has grown in size to encompass new artists, ensembles, and art forms. From slam poets to improvisers to Capoeira masters, these new artists are undeniably unique.
To introduce audiences to our new artists, we’ll be posting interviews with those who recently joined our roster, giving them a chance to share more about themselves and their experiences with Young Audiences so far. We recently sat down with Matt Barinholtz of FutureMakers.
What is your background as an artist?
FutureMakers started from work I was doing as a visual artist and sculptor with other makers and educators. I was frequently asked if I could bring the type of work I was doing to classrooms. I had met artists, engineers, and technologists that wanted to do projects with young people, but didn’t feel confident about how to approach it. I wondered if an organization could connect makers and educators, so both could build their skills.
During the summer of 2012, I was invited to work with a supportive cohort of community colleges in Maryland to bring STEAM workshops (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) into their summer programs for youth. Since then, we’ve steadily been growing our staff, or as we call them, coaches, and are excited to be working with Young Audiences to provide a formal pathway for those interested in joining FutureMakers to deliver programs to schools.
How did you hear about Young Audiences?
Someone shared a workshop offered by Pat Cruz, Young Audiences Education Director. I wasn’t able to attend, but reached out to Pat to find out how FutureMakers could learn from and work with Young Audiences. In 2013, we were invited to support a summer learning program in Harford County, and participate in the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) Seminar. Through TAI, we developed a FutureMakers residency. We’ve been making things that wiggle, draw, glow, and do crazy stuff with kids ever since.
What has been the most memorable part of the programs you’ve had through Young Audiences?
I was watching morning announcement videos at a school which used puppets created by students with TAI instructor and playwright John Morogiello. They were funny and sharp. It wasn’t about adults, it was about youth development with young people out in front. I was impressed by the way art was completely integrated into that school. It made me wish that more places would work and integrate this way.
What was your favorite part of the Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) Seminar? How has the experience changed your approach to teaching?
TAI solidified the way we at FutureMakers think about the pathway our coaches follow. It focuses our expertise and creativity on student engagement, measurable outcomes, and addresses the needs of our teacher partners. They get to see and do what they’d like within boundaries of what they need to do.
Our coaches are experiencing how maker education can connect in classrooms because of Young Audiences. Being observed, receiving feedback, and having scheduling and communications support is an enormous value that Young Audiences adds to our organization.
What does your art form–particularly as it relates to STEM subjects–teach students?
With technology, things are moving toward additive processes – for example, 3D printing, which is a process we incorporate in many community workshops. Traditional craft and art media are now expanding to incorporate materials often found in science or technology classrooms, or only available to higher education students. In a rapidly evolving, project-based learning world, coaches help young people embrace the design process in their creative lives – think like engineers to figure out how to solve a design challenge, and have the confidence to iterate, or try again, when things go in unexpected directions.
How do the lessons or skills you teach students apply to their everyday life outside of the classroom?
Students asking, imagining, planning, creating, and improving is the core of what we’re about. Young people have limitless imaginations, and are open to learning how to take a step back and ask questions. In the past, young makers followed plans or prescriptive examples to complete a project. We’re learning that truly effective coaches facilitate their discovery of paths and options that lead to mastery – supported by the design cycle.
Why do you believe art is important for every student to have access to?
Young people need to have the opportunity to try something and fail, and a coach who can help them through difficult spots. Art was the only thing that kept me focused and motivated in high school; it was my identity early on. When we’re working with students in upper-elementary and middle school, identity is a large and important part of what our residencies are about. Art is a fast path to forming and grabbing onto an identity, whatever the content is.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a Young Audiences roster artist?
It’s incredibly validating to know as an organization we’re doing something that our school systems embrace. I think the most rewarding aspect is knowing that we’re working in a community of other practitioners who are phenomenal performing and visual artists and amazing coaches. That is a very rare mix, and we’re honored to be a part of it.
Keep an eye out for more interviews featuring our newest roster artists! See past new artist interviews here.
The 2014-2015 Teaching Artist Institute (TAI) Seminar is already underway, but we wanted to share some reflections from artists who have graduated from the program. Here’s what they had to say about the experience:
As a full-time preservationist of acoustic Delta Blues from the 1920s and 1930s, I must make my history of Blues show academically relevant to the curriculums of Maryland and Virginia schools. I completed the TAI training program in 2009, and the course completely transformed my understanding of how I can support the current teaching standards in schools with my music programs.
As Young Audiences knows better than anyone, all the arts are under tremendous pressure to prove their relevance to school systems that are struggling to meet national testing standards in different disciplines. What I learned from my TAI training is that the arts serve a valuable role in preparing students with the 21st Century thinking skills they need for their future success in our rapidly changing world.
By creating a residency with a language arts teacher as my partner, I was able to use songwriting to teach students figurative writing skills. Without the TAI training, my school music programs would not be as academically relevant to the school’s goals. This connection is critical for the arts to survive in our schools, not as a reward for difficult academic work, but as a means to help students meet their academic goals.
The TAI program is well-run by dedicated educators and artists. It is challenging, rigorous, and exposes artists, teaching artists, and professional educators to each other’s thinking styles. This program deserves support, and I hope it continues to transform serious performing artists into skilled teaching artists.
I had never thought of myself as an educator, at least not in the traditional sense. Musically, there is always an underlying truth or teachable moment I try to impart. However, now I needed to do so in a structured, educational format. Although the curriculum was challenging, I am ever so grateful for having gone through the process. The fellowship with the teachers and other artists truly cannot be measured. As an artist, mentally you have to re-wire your brain to remember that it is not about you or a performance; it is about what the children learn and take away from the experience. A few months later I had the opportunity to return to the school for a musical performance for a general assembly. My class was so excited to see me and the feeling was more than mutual. For that reason alone, it was a journey worth taking.
TAI gave me such an appreciation for the life of the classroom teacher. Not only did I learn how to plan and sequence a project into realistic, meaningful lesson plans, I learned a whole new vocabulary and some best practices of a strong teacher as well. Field testing my lessons with my teaching partner gave me real world practice in collaboration, classroom management, solid preparation and flexibility.
TAI is also a rare opportunity to work and learn side-by-side with artists from other disciplines. I met so many energetic, thoughtful, creative people who are not only committed to their art, but also to making a difference in the lives of children. It was incredibly valuable to me to be stretched and out of my comfort zone. As a visual artist, I found that experiences in music, dance and drama helped me move out of my head and in to my body. I learned that this whole body engagement is something that I want to bring to students when I lead them in the visual arts.
On the last day of TAI we were asked to say one word that summed up our experience. My word was “ALIVE.” That pretty much says it all.
TAI is an amazing opportunity where artists, educators, and staff truly collaborate to help process, define, and designate the importance of art in the classroom. I loved the guided lessons, hands on experience, and being around such amazing, talented individuals. I feel like this experience helped to shine a new light on my own experiences as a classroom teacher and now a teaching artist.
The staff and artists who coached us through TAI opened a whole new level of integrated content, planning, and instructional skills to us. The opportunity to develop new programming for excited young artists, alongside engaged education professionals in so many unique environments has grown our vision as an organization. This fall, three more team members will begin TAI. Best professional development around!
I really felt like I was re-energized in my way of thinking and the facilitators brought a plethora of knowledge to the table. I appreciated their ability to listen, answer questions, and make the experience fun, interactive and simply enjoyable.