Student-Centered Summer

In January, the sun disappears so quickly—its absence makes the air that much colder. It feels funny to reflect on my youngest daughter’s first experience at Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA) when, outside, it feels like it just might snow.

Kiyah and I, both of us parents of children who attended SALA 2018, were asked to meet at Young Audiences a couple of weeks ago. A teacher, Jesika Paige, was here, too. She wasn’t at my child’s SALA site last year, but I remember meeting her once. And I recognize her from our How We Do Summer video. Her smile is warm and her energy is radiant and it was so nice to be sitting at the table with her. Joining us were five teaching artists: Katherine Dilworth, Jamaal “Mr. Root” Collier, Vonnya Pettigrew, and Mama Kay and Mama Rashida of WombWork Productions, along with staff members Michael Brush, Monique Cox, Kurtis Donnelly, and Kristina Berdan.

Parents love SALA for a multitude of reasons. For one, Baltimore City Public Schools students participating in SALA have not only avoided summer learning loss but, in many cases, gained ground on their national peers in standardized testing. Between this and the fact that kids in SALA are immersed in meaningful art projects every single day, enrolling my 6-year-old was an easy decision. And as Ms. Paige noted in How We Do Summer, “for children who suppress their art during the school year, this was a time for them to actually show up and show out and show their artistic ability.” So, how can we take this amazing and enriching educational experience and make it even better? This is what we are here to find out.

Something that Young Audiences always makes sure to do is collect and evaluate feedback from all of a program’s stakeholders. If you are ever asked to fill out a survey regarding one of YA’s programs, know that your comments are read, your answers to questions are carefully considered, and your voice matters. The idea to form a community advisory for SALA was brought about in the feedback we collected from parents, and from students, teachers, and artists. Our mission is to ensure that SALA (an incredible, free, arts-filled, and academically excellent program) is student-centered and to identify program changes and improvements to implement during SALA 2019.

Coming together with other stakeholders for the SALA Community Advisory’s inaugural meeting reiterated to me the desire of everyone involved to improve, and to be wise, and strong. The group committed to making sure all families are involved all along the way and that all ideas are welcome. We look forward to sharing and listening with open hearts and open minds, reflecting on what we did well in 2018, what we can do better, on ideas for the future, and welcoming the unexpected. We cannot wait for another summer of SALA, each one better than the last—in the meantime, let it snow. Written by Shannon Kline, parent and Young Audiences Communications Associate.

If you would like to be a part of the Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA) Community Advisory, we invite you to contact Kurtis Donnelly at kurtis@yamd.org. Your thoughtful input helps to make our programs the very best for students and we appreciate your time and dedication.

Summer All Year

 Written by Jaime Clough
The 2nd grade Baltimore City Public Schools teacher spoke about how the tools she learned at Summer Arts & Learning Academy have informed her teaching and transformed her classroom at Young Audiences’ annual Impact Breakfast earlier this month.

“Buffalo Woman, go,” Mr. Briggs nudged me. I stepped onto the stage, took a deep breath, and began my lines. I was eight and dressed in a leather Native American dress with beads and fringe. I was shy, but I had done the work. By the morning of the production, I had read primary texts, written a research paper, and created my own costume. So, when I stepped onto that stage, I was not timid or nervous, but passionate and proud. This was my first experience with arts integration.

Fourteen years after my role as the Buffalo Woman, I was accepted into Teach for America Baltimore and began teaching at Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle School in Charles Village. My students are diverse. One walked with her family from Mexico to America. One, who cannot yet read, learns in the same space as another, who is reading Harry Potter. Some of my students come to school without having eaten since the night before. Others rarely have clean uniforms.

I knew what I wanted to do in my classroom, but I didn’t have the tools to execute my ideas.

It was last March that I found Young Audiences. They matched me with fiber artist and Young Audiences teaching artist Katherine Dilworth, and together we went through a one-week professional development class. I learned how to use song and rap to teach students multiplication, and theatre to understand points of view in a story. During Summer Arts & Learning Academy, for the first time, I taught the way I had always wanted to teach.

As part of our literacy unit, students read City Green. To help kids understand the message of the book, “what makes a community?” and connect with the characters, Katherine and I planned a lesson around creating a community garden out of woven flowers. We’d use our art standards to create ABAB patterns and connect math standards for adding and subtracting the strings.  

We had one student in the class with lots of sensory difficulties. He had challenges with personal space, with expressing his emotions, and would often just put his head on his desk. As he began to wind thread through his loom to make his flower, I was ready for him to say, “It’s too hard,” and stomp away. After 15 minutes of weaving blues and purples, a pattern emerged. His flower was taking shape beautifully. He was adding and subtracting, counting his strings, and weaving the pattern. Absorbed in his work, he sat without prompting for the longest amount of time since I had known him. “Ms. Clough, look! Ms. Clough, I did it,” he said. “I made my flower and it’s so cool!” That was the spark.

From that moment on, my student was different. He raised his hand. He worked with partners. He asked questions about how to make his work better. Without that moment at the beginning of summer, we would not have seen a change in him. The arts gave both him and me the tools we needed to help him succeed.

Jaime Clough (right) with her Summer Arts & Learning Academy teaching artist partner Katherine Dilworth

My classroom after SALA is a different world. Teaching through the arts doesn’t just work for some students, it works for everyone. I have the highest engagement I have ever had, we are on track to grow two years in one school year as a class, and there is a spark in every single eye in the room when I write the lyrics to a “Ms. Clough Original” on the board. iReady, ANET, and DIBELS tests do not make us anxious anymore. When we walk into the computer lab, my students cheer because now they know they can do it. They are confident because they know their math and reading strategies from the songs, skits, and choreography we use every day. The successes and swagger among students in my classroom are because of the skills I gained while teaching with Young Audiences. Now, my dream is to be a principal so that I don’t just have a classroom of sparks, but a whole school of them.

Young Audiences' Sun

Jaime Clough is a 2nd Grade Teacher at Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle School and Summer Arts & Learning Academy Classroom Teacher. Her first-hand experience is a testament to the power of arts integration in the classroom and is an example of the incredible strides a class can take both emotionally and academically when children learn through the arts.

America Celebrates Maryland

America Celebrates: Maryland

In 1923, a 48-foot Balsam fir was erected by the District of Columbia Public Schools to the south of the White House. The tree was decorated, lit, and named the “National Christmas Tree.” Though the trees have varied, the National Christmas Tree still stands, 94 years later. Surrounding the National Christmas Tree is the America Celebrates display where smaller evergreen trees are decorated with handmade ornaments to represent the unique history, culture, and heritage of each of the nation’s 56 states and territories.

This year, the Maryland State Arts Council selected YA roster artist Katherine Dilworth to design the ornaments for the Maryland state tree for the America Celebrates display. The artist has been integrating fabrics and felted fibers into her art for more than 20 years. Her work is shown in galleries throughout the U.S. and was included in two books. In her school residencies, Katherine teaches students how to sculpt loose wool into solid shapes and colorful, textured murals. For this project, however, her materials were quite different.

Students at Ewell Elementary School painted American Bald Eagles and other wildlife that call Smith Island home onto the smooth undersides of oyster shells.

The artist worked with Ewell Elementary School students on Smith Island to make the ornaments for the 2017 Maryland state tree. Smith Island, Maryland’s only inhabited Chesapeake Bay Island, has about 250 residents and can only be reached by boat. Ewell, the largest of the communities on Smith, is home to the island’s sole elementary school (the K-7 Ewell Elementary School serves a total of 11 students).

The Chesapeake Bay is integral to the lives of the island’s inhabitants where watermen collect fish and shellfish, like oysters and Blue crabs from its waters. Katherine chose to craft the ornaments from oyster shells to bring attention to the Bay’s endangered species. “I wanted to highlight the Chesapeake Bay on the Maryland tree, particularly focusing on animals and plants that have been threatened or endangered,” said the artist. She and the students looked at animals like the American Bald Eagle, once threatened by human behavior, but whose populations have since been revitalized.

“I contacted the Ewell Elementary School on Smith Island because the kids there would have an intimate knowledge of life on the bay,” Katherine explained. The students painted the smooth, concave surfaces of the sea creatures’ shells with wildlife native to the region: Baltimore checkerspot butterflies, Blue crabs, Seagulls, Geese, Rockfish, and of course, oysters. The decorated mollusks awash in the blues of the Chesapeake hang proudly on the Maryland State tree this year, reminding us of our relationship with the natural world and representing a way of life only found in Maryland.

The America Celebrates display is free and open to visitors throughout the month. Learn about last year’s ornaments here.

Katherine Dilworth introduces students to the centuries-old art form of felting. Learn how you can bring her programs into your school today by visiting her artist page.

Fiber Artist Katherine Dilworth on the Chesapeake Bay with a new wild friend.
Young Audiences Art Crawl

Art Crawl:  The Intersection of Arts, Education, and Cocktails

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

On Friday, November 17, Young Audiences hosted its second annual Art Crawl at City Neighbors High School, an arts-integrated public charter school in Baltimore City. Approximately 75 attendees filled the school’s stylish café, mingling among lush booths, comfy couches, ambient lighting, and in the glow of neon signs. As the group noshed on delicious hors-d’oeuvres and drinks provided by Flavor, Union, and Noble Vintners, Young Audiences President & CEO Stacie Sanders Evans welcomed the crowd, “Every person in this room played a role in closing the inspiration gap this summer.” The inspiration gap, she explained, is the difference between what we know the best conditions are for learning and what kids actually get these days in school. “Thanks to you, we reached 825 MORE young people last summer and expanded our summer programs to include middle and high school students.”

She presented a short video highlighting Young Audiences’ Summer Arts & Learning Academy, talked about the impact on the students that it serves, and shared the organization’s plans for the future. This year, Young Audiences brought their Summer Arts & Learning Academy to four Baltimore-area schools, serving more than 1,100 students over a 5-week period.  Next year, the goal is to double this achievement by expanding to eight academies with an enrollment of 2,200 students.

Board Secretary and Sunburst Society Member Tea Carnell

You couldn’t help but feel proud of what Young Audiences has accomplished in stemming summer learning loss. With the help of dedicated artists and academic teachers, children who regularly attended the Academy not only avoided summer learning loss in reading and math, but in many cases made significant gains over their national peers in standardized testing. The findings showed potentially groundbreaking progress in tackling summer learning loss, a chronic challenge facing public schools.

That sense of pride was especially felt among the attendees who, either through corporate or private donorship, provided funding to bridge the gap between the City School system’s budget and the actual cost of the Academy. I had been fortunate enough to observe one Summer Arts & Learning Academy over the summer and was delighted by how many guests shared their own stories of Academy site visits. And on this evening, we had the pleasure of experiencing the Academy not just as observers, but from the perspective of students.

We were divided into groups before departing on our journey to experience learning with Young Audiences. At three arts-integrated learning stations set up throughout the school, artist-teacher partners invited attendees to step into the shoes of students and learn academic content through the use of various art forms. Of course, since it was an art crawl for adults, there were cocktails to enjoy as well!

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
Lemonade, vodka, and Blue Curaçao garnished with a Swedish fish

Concocted by Board Chairman and Sunburst Society Member Randy Osteen and Stephanie Felix

We took our seats in the library where paper, markers, glue sticks and googly eyes had been set out on tables. Fiber artist Kathrine Dilworth and her teacher-partner, Jaime Clough, explained they had worked with first graders in the Summer Arts & Learning Academy to reinforce math skills.

Fiber Artist Katherine Dilworth and Academic Teacher Jaime Clough

We were instructed to draw a monster, name it, and then partner with someone to create a mathematical word problem, as this is a difficult skill for six-year-olds.  So after Pink Plush (my furry pink monster) was completed, the gentleman across the table handed me his monster, Curley, and I wrote the following, “If you subtract Curley’s eyes (3) from Pink Plush’s (4), you are left with one eye.”  The teacher smiled and encouraged me with a cheery, “Perfect!” I can picture her having done that many times this summer.

S.T.E.A.M.
Belgian-style amber ale and Grand Marnier

Concocted by Board Secretary and Sunburst Society Member Tea and Kevin Carnell

You’ve heard of STEM, haven’t you – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math?  Well, when you add the Arts, you get STEAM!  In the music room, after grabbing our next cocktail, we met percussionist Jason Armstrong Baker who taught us the basics of beatboxing.  After demonstrating how to get Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, to beatbox for you – one incredulous person asked, “Seriously?” to which another wit deadpanned, “No, Siri!” (you gotta love this crowd) – we went through a couple of patterns to master the skill.

Jason Baker introducing the basics of beatboxing

Convinced we were ready (really?), he turned the floor over to classroom teacher Shana Smith who had assisted third graders with their multiplication tables.  After picking a card (the 5 of hearts), which was our factor (in this case, rhythm size), and after a roll of the die (3), which determined our group size (in this case, the number of times the rhythm was repeated), we had our multiplication problem, 5 x 3.  Thus prepared, we broke into a stuttering chorus of BttKt, BttKt, BttKt – our answer, 15!

Poetic License
Dark Rum, lime, bitters, mint, and a splash of Prosecco

Concocted byVice Chairman of the Board and Sunburst Society Member Alan Hoff and Trisha Frick

Moving back into the room in which we had begun the evening, we grabbed our cocktail and gathered around tables as Femi the DriFish, a slam poet, and his teacher-partner, Erin Inouye, explained how they used the book Seedfolks as a basis for their lessons.

Using the example of “Through My Window,” we were asked to write our own poems to illustrate what we see through our window. Just as the pair had done with the fourth and fifth graders they led this summer, they offered several ways to accomplish this. A green sheet provided partial sentences with blanks left for the author to fill (think Mad Libs). Some participants were handed blank pink sheets of paper on which to pen a poem from scratch (a few brave souls chose this). For those feeling intimidated by the written word, colored markers and a blank white sheet were provided on which we could draw our window scenes.

Hip Hop Spoken Word Artist Femi the DriFish and Academic Teacher Erin Enouye

After completing our poems, we were invited into a circle to share them. And folks from each group (pink, green and white) did so. Particularly sweet was a gentleman who drew his poem, explaining that the trees were still green, not because they hadn’t changed colors yet, but because he left for work before the sun rose and got home after it set.  So the last time he saw his trees, they were still leafy and green – a detail he might have felt hesitant to explain in writing, but that came flowing from him through his artwork!

At the end of the evening the groups reunited for a few more snacks and conversation. And what struck me as I talked with these people was their shared passion for both the arts and education. One woman, Sharon Button, had actually been the Executive Director of a Young Audiences affiliate in Buffalo, NY in the 1970s. At the time she was a workforce of only one, but toiled tirelessly to secure funding for arts-integrated programs long before the term was in fashion.

Another gentleman who had worked with Young Audiences affiliates in other states had this to say, “Young Audiences in Maryland is one of the most highly respected groups, both in this city and among its peers.”

The author and her husband at Young Audiences’ 2nd annual Art Crawl

I can believe it.  The energy, passion, creativity, imagination, and sheer fun that Young Audiences exhibits makes me very proud to be associated with it. I have been fortunate to meet teachers and artists who blend academic subjects and art to reach school children. And I have been doubly blessed by being able to contribute monetarily to this amazing organization as a Sunburst Society member.

If you believe, as Young Audiences does, that the arts transform lives, and that every student should have the opportunity to imagine, create, and realize their full potential through the arts, then I urge you to join us in supporting this amazing organization. And then next year, join us at the Art Crawl and discover the magic that happens when arts, education, and handcrafted cocktails are combined.

Find more photos from Young Audiences’ 2nd annual Art Crawl can be found on our Flickr page

The Artist-Teacher Partnership: A Teacher Reflection

    Written by Jaime Clough,
2nd Grade Teacher at Margaret Brent Elementary Middle School and
Summer Arts & Learning Academy Classroom Teacher

“This hit, that ice cold, Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold.” As soon as I heard the music echo into the buzzing auditorium, I knew it was time. Katherine Dilworth, my artist partner, and I put on our old lady gardener hats, fluffed our red feather boas, and strutted through the crowd of children gathered for the first day of Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA) at Thomas Jefferson Elementary Middle School. Waving and pointing to our new 1st and 2nd graders, we introduced ourselves as not just teachers, but people. We pulled out our best, but simultaneously horrible moves, and leaned into making ourselves look as silly and approachable as possible. It was fun, it was full of life, and we created it.

This scene, this first real moment of SALA, is a small snapshot of what the entire summer felt like for us as teachers working with Young Audiences. Neither Katherine nor I had ever worked at the Summer Arts and Learning Academy before and we were a bit hesitant about what fully integrating the arts into each lesson would look like, especially in dealing with Common Core math. Coming into this program, I had just completed my third year as a Baltimore City Public School teacher. I was less concerned with management, and more concerned with how to plan arts experiences all day, every day. Katherine has taught many residencies all over Maryland with Young Audiences, so she was more concerned with the management piece than with planning content. Young Audiences did a beautiful job of pairing us together because our strengths complemented each other perfectly and we filled in the gaps for each other seamlessly. Looking back, one of the massive assets of the SALA program is that teachers and artists work together so that the best of both art and content is intertwined beautifully into each students’ day.

Another huge asset to SALA is the freedom we had in planning our content to help our students enjoy their experience through art. We had a variety of types of art involved in each day, from movements associated with how a plant grows to full projects like weaving flowers based on patterns to create a “community garden” like in our story City Green.

One of my favorite projects that we planned and implemented was a math lesson that focused on symmetry. Our math skill that day was understanding the value of the equals sign and how to make true number sentences. As a hook strategy to help students understand this concept, we let our class choose magazine photos that we had cut in half. Then, we taught them about symmetry and allowed them to try to create the second half of their picture so that both sides had equal patterns, lines, and shapes. Not only did this art connection engage our students so that they were excited once math started, but it gave them confidence and helped them understand much more clearly what it means for something (like a math equation) to “look equal.”

Lessons and experiences like these projects enriched our students’ understanding and knowledge in a way that I did not expect. This summer, I was able to clearly see how differently an arts-integrated classroom functions compared to a non-arts-integrated classroom. In an arts-rich class, students are more engaged, they have fun, they are more willing to take risks, and they come to see each other not just as students capable of learning, but as whole people capable of creating incredible things. On that first day of SALA, we were introduced to our students not just as teachers, but as whole people. Because of this, we were able to build more trusting and holistic relationships with them. This experience changed the way that I will teach, always, and I hope that it changed how my students feel about school and learning.

If you are a K-12 certified academic teacher interested in teaching in our 2018 Summer Arts and Learning Academy, email us at info@yamd.org. Professional artists interested in using their knowledge and expertise to transform the lives and education of City School students should visit Summer Arts Corps to learn about our paid training program.