Young Audiences of Maryland Wins NSLA 2020 New York Life Excellence in Summer Learning Award

BALTIMORE – Young Audiences of Maryland, the Baltimore-based nonprofit delivering arts-integrated learning experiences to Maryland students and educators, has won the National Summer Learning Association’s 2020 New York Life Foundation Excellence in Summer Learning Award for its Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA). Young Audiences was selected out of more than 350 applying organizations from across the country.

The 2020 New York Life Foundation Excellence in Summer Learning Award award honors Young Audiences’ Summer Arts & Learning Academy – operated in partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools – for curbing summer learning loss. While most children lose up to two months of math skills over the summer, the cumulative effects of summer learning loss are most detrimental to students living in under-resourced communities. Young Audiences has also been recognized for demonstrating excellence in accelerating academic achievement, promoting healthy development for children and youth, supporting educator professional development and enhancing family and community engagement. The award included a $10,000 donation to Young Audiences. Past award winners have included West Virginia University, Hasbro, Ohio State, and the YMCA.

“Our teaching artists, educators, and staff do incredible work every year to provide excellent arts and educational experiences to students in Title1 Baltimore City Public Schools through the Summer Arts & Learning Academy,” said Stacie Sanders Evans, Young Audiences President & CEO. “We are proud and thankful to be honored with this award, which validates what we’ve known all along: the arts transform learning for students.”

SALA is a free, five-week, summer program typically engaging more than 2,000 Baltimore students a year in hands-on, arts-based learning guided by professional teaching artists and educators. The seven year old program has been shown by multiple independent studies to reduce summer learning loss, increase student confidence and engagement, and transform how teachers teach. For example, SALA students may use beat boxing to support math instruction, paint their favorite scenes from stories they are reading, or explore the art of photography to learn about the nature all around them. This kind of programming is designed to make learning more accessible for students, and to influence traditional educational systems to empower all students to express their voices and experiences.

The awards are presented annually by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), the only national nonprofit exclusively focused on closing the achievement gap by increasing access to high-quality summer learning opportunities.

“Our teaching artists, educators, and staff do incredible work every year to provide excellent arts and educational experiences to students in Title1 Baltimore City Public Schools through the Summer Arts & Learning Academy,” said Stacie Sanders Evans, Young Audiences President & CEO. “We are proud and thankful to be honored with this award, which validates what we’ve known all along: the arts transform learning for students.”

“This award validates the creative approach of Baltimore City Public Schools and Young Audiences to using the summer months to address the opportunity gaps in our city,” said Dr. Sonia Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools. “When we bring artists into our classrooms in the summer they spark curiosity, creativity, and a desire to learn that fuels our students’ academic growth.”

Young Audiences Arts for Learning Maryland

About Young Audiences/Arts for Learning:
Started in Baltimore in 1950, Young Audiences is the nation’s largest arts-in-education provider. As the Maryland affiliate, Young Audiences/Arts for Learning (YA) is devoted to enriching the lives and education of Maryland’s youth through educational and culturally diverse arts programs. Through Young Audiences, professional artists from all disciplines partner with leaders and schools for nearly 10,000 hands-on arts learning experiences that reach more than 190,000 Maryland students. Young Audiences envisions a Maryland where the arts are valued for their capacity to transform lives, and where every student is immersed in opportunities to imagine, to create, and to realize their full potential.

About the National Summer Learning Association
The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) is the only national nonprofit exclusively focused on closing the achievement gap by increasing access to high-quality summer learning opportunities. NSLA recognizes and disseminates what works in summer learning, develops and delivers community capacity-building offerings and convenes and empowers key actors to embrace summer learning as a solution for equity and excellence in education. For more information, visit www.summerlearning.org/.

Lessons from Summer: Preparing for a Virtual Fall

By now, Maryland students will have started their new school year. We know they have been missed terribly by their teachers and by their friends. And while they might not be reuniting in the ways that they had hoped, we know that they can still feel the love, the excitement, and support they would normally get in person. We know this because this summer, we were able to build and maintain the community and connections that students and families have come to expect from our programseven though the circumstances were different.

Just as in years prior, students practiced their math and literacy skills each day with educators and professional teaching artists in our Virtual Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA). Besides the traditional benefits of summer learning, our students had the additional experience of getting adjusted to online learning in the fall. One parent said, “I really appreciated the fact that students were able to be in a virtual camp and prepare themselves for the upcoming virtual school year.”

“I really appreciated the fact that students were able to be in a virtual camp and prepare themselves for the upcoming virtual school year.”

And because they were learning through the arts, students were engaged, they had fun, and they were driven to learn and succeed. We saw puppet theatre performances and were treated to kitchen instrument concerts. We heard all about new passions ranging from embroidery to engineering. And we saw students and their families and caregivers having fun while learning and engaged in the arts together.

Teaching artist Marian McLaughlin’s class made a collaborative crankie—a moving illustrated story—after reading the book “City Green”. The crankie shows everyone’s garden plots in their imaginary community garden.

We discovered that our Virtual SALA students RULE Zoom! At this year’s program culmination, students presented collaborative class projects and Creative Challenges and we were absolutely blown away by their creativity and hard work. And it’s not just the time and effort that was apparent in their presentationsyou can feel their joy and pride, their camaraderie and excitementeven through the screen!

Students in this year’s Virtual Summer Arts & Learning Academy worked with teaching artist Femi the Drifish and educator Mrs. Cassin to create “Our Changing World News”.

We also had the honor of congratulating 19 incredible students on their completion of the Bloomberg Arts Internship, the college and career readiness program for rising high school seniors. Like our SALA students, the 2020 interns completed the entirety of the program virtually. All summer long, these students honed their writing skills, prepared applications for college, attended virtual workshops on financial literacy and college preparedness, and met over Zoom with professional artists working across a multitude of disciplines.

Writing samples created by students during the internship were presented at the culminating ceremony.
Interns were presented with messages of gratitude from their peers.

At their worksites, interns completed projects that required extensive research and the development of new skills. They engaged in lively and thoughtful discussion; they showed up and challenged themselves and inspired each other to aim high; and they cared for and supported one another daily.

This video, created by Gyasi Mitchell, BAI class of 2019, offers a glimpse into week four of our virtual Bloomberg Arts Internship.

We learned so much about reaching and inspiring students virtually and about connecting talented and committed teaching artists and educators with families in all new ways this summer. This was not the summer any of us expected when we started planning for it last yearin what now feels like a very different time. But summer is a magical season at Young Audiences, pandemic or not, and we are so thankful to be able to take this experience and all the lessons we learned and apply it to the new school year.

We are truly excited to now offer a diverse array or synchronous and asynchronous programing to help schools engage students this school year. We know that creating content that changes the pace of remote learning can be a daunting challenge for educators. Young Audiences’ remote learning programs provide the tone and flow that makes learning interesting and fun. Our standards-based resources motivate students to stay engaged and provide busy educators with high-quality, fully customizable options for delivering content. Visit yamd.org/remote-learning to learn more about how our professional teaching artists bring excitement and joy into your virtual classrooms!

Children performing their own version of Little Red Riding Hood

Young Audiences’ Free Summer Arts & Learning Academy to Expand to Nearly 2,600 Children After Study Shows it Reduces Summer Learning Loss

Arts-integrated program for City Schools students expanding to nine sites in 2020 after program successfully reduced summer learning loss in math

BALTIMORE – Young Audiences’ Summer Arts & Learning Academy–the free, five-week arts integration program for Baltimore City Public School students–will expand in 2020 after new research showed the program successfully reduces summer learning loss in math while supporting writing and social-emotional growth. In 2020, the program will grow to nine sites, reaching nearly 2600 students across Baltimore.

The 2019 Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA) was held from July 6 to August 7 at eight sites. Through hands-on activities co-taught by teaching artists and teachers, more than 2,300 Pre K-5th grade students engaged in painting, songwriting, poetry, dance, music, photography, and playwriting while learning math, writing, and literacy.

“Arts education is a vital component of instruction in City Schools because its concepts infuse other key instructional areas such as language arts and mathematics. That combination creates a well-rounded education for our students,” said Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises, CEO of City Schools. “We are pleased to partner with Young Audiences/Arts for Learning as it enhances its contribution to the arts education of our students. Its work is invaluable in expanding the minds and skillsets of our students.”

Research from Baltimore City Public Schools and evaluation firm WolfBrown showed that the infusion of the arts into traditional learning content transformed the classroom experience, resulting in academic gains for students. Baltimore City Public Schools analyzes student performance on the i-Ready math assessment, taken at the end and beginning of each school year to gauge summer learning loss. Results showed that SALA attendees had significantly less summer learning loss in i-Ready math compared to BCPSS students who did not attend the program. The district evaluation also highlighted YA as the most cost-efficient elementary program with the highest rates of enrollment and attendance.

WolfBrown, a national leader in research on arts education and children’s development, partnered with Young Audiences to analyze the 2019 SALA results and reported significant academic gains–an average of 20% growth–in third-fifth grade writing scores on pre-and-post program testing. WolfBrown also found that students attending SALA for two years showed no summer learning loss in math. Rather, these students experienced academic gains when returning to school, growing their i-Ready scores by nearly three percentile ranks.

WolfBrown’s findings showed that while all kids can benefit from the program, students who are furthest behind academically can benefit the most. Students (grades 3-5) entering the program two grade levels below grade level saw no summer learning loss in reading as measured by i-Ready. In fact, these students grew by two percentile ranks when returning to school in the Fall. 

With Baltimore City Public Schools prioritizing whole child education, Young Audiences (YA) partnered with WolfBrown to develop and pilot an observation tool last summer that spans from emotional support and social climate to academic knowledge and arts integration. The framework is based on what research shows matters in a learning environment–and it may ultimately help YA and City Schools better understand why this program works. Observers scored SALA particularly high in classroom climate, teacher sensitivity, ability to develop math skills in students, co-teaching, and differentiated literacy instruction.  

“Arts education is a vital component of instruction in City Schools because its concepts infuse other key instructional areas such as language arts and mathematics. That combination creates a well-rounded education for our students,” said Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises, CEO of City Schools. “We are pleased to partner with Young Audiences/Arts for Learning as it enhances its contribution to the arts education of our students. Its work is invaluable in expanding the minds and skillsets of our students.”

“We are thrilled that City Schools is choosing to partner with Young Audiences to expand this program to more children in summer 2020,” said Stacie Sanders Evans, Young Audiences President & CEO. “We also love that City Schools is committed to the whole child, making sure kids have opportunities to develop personally, creatively, and academically over the summer.”

Registration for the 2020 Summer Arts & Learning Academy will open on Tuesday, March 3, with the program running from July 6 to August 7. Host sites include Arundel Elementary Middle School, Elmer A. Henderson-Hopkins, Dorothy I. Height Elementary School, Gardenville Elementary School, Beechfield Elementary Middle School, James McHenry Elementary School, Pimlico Elementary/Middle School, Wildwood Elementary/Middle School, and Graceland Park-O’Donnell Heights Elementary School. Find registration and more information at yamd.org/programs/summer-arts-academy.

View the full Baltimore City Public Schools Summer Evaluation
View the full WolfBrown SALA Evaluation

Young Audiences Arts for Learning Maryland

About Young Audiences/Arts for Learning:
Started in Baltimore in 1950, Young Audiences is the nation’s largest arts-in-education provider. As the Maryland affiliate, Young Audiences/Arts for Learning (YA) is devoted to enriching the lives and education of Maryland’s youth through educational and culturally diverse arts programs. Through Young Audiences, professional artists from all disciplines partner with leaders and schools for nearly 10,000 hands-on arts learning experiences that reach more than 190,000 Maryland students. Young Audiences envisions a Maryland where the arts are valued for their capacity to transform lives, and where every student is immersed in opportunities to imagine, to create, and to realize their full potential.

Artists and Staff tasing for a group photo in the courtyard of a renovated industrial building

#GivingArts4Learning: Micaela’s Story

Our staff at Young Audiences do not just come to work. We come to support a mission: to transform the lives and education of our youth through the arts by connecting educators, professional artists, and communities. And we come with our hearts and minds and bodies ready to go above and beyond to realize this mission.

Micaela wrote, “When I started at Young Audiences six years ago, I thought we needed the arts to help students be more engaged in school and make learning more accessible. I had just been a teacher, and I saw changes in my students when they worked in the artsnew leaders emerged when we did a class talent show, and huge smiles appeared on kids’ faces when they got “their own” recorders to take home from music class.

We need young people who not only have the skills needed to build a better world, but can imagine what that might look like. Artists in schools seems like one of our best shots at giving kids the space and community to become the wild, imaginative thinkers and doers that we all need.

These things are still truethe arts are awesome at engaging kids in school, providing an opportunity for students to do hands on work that is meaningful, visible, and matters. And, they spark joy in kids!

Today, though, I think there is more that I didn’t realize a few years ago. I think we need imagination in volume and degrees beyond what I understand. We need young people who not only have the skills needed to build a better world, but can imagine what that might look like. Artists in schools seems like one of our best shots at giving kids the space and community to become the wild, imaginative thinkers and doers that we all need.”

Spoken word artist Femi the Drifish stands at a table where students are seated looking over their work.

#GivingArts4Learning: Femi’s Story

Our artists know how to use their art form to draw kids into the work, to get students to challenge and surprise themselves and proudly show off their achievements. They see how arts integration engages and motivates even the most reluctant students.

Spoken Word Artist Femi the Drifish told us, ”I was working with 7th graders at Commodore John Rodgers Elementary/Middle doing an arts integration math program using rhythm, rhyme, and poetry. Going through what is common in a classroom, I challenged the students to use their algebra vocabulary to describe the city of Baltimore using the terms in creative ways—metaphorically, but in correct context.

There was one student, clearly the “too cool for school” type, who just wasn’t participating in any activity that led up to the final writing exercise. Once the scaffolding was completed and students were set to complete their assigned writing prompt, I witnessed that one kid scribbling on paper in the corner by his lonesome, away from tables where students where gathered.

Upon completion, students shared their work trying to impress each other with the cleverness of their vocabulary usage in the Baltimore City descriptive poems, when he asked if he could share his poem.

I was surprised—just like his teacher and his class peers—and quickly encouraged him to step up to the front of the class to present before he decided to retreat into the disinterested facade he used during all the warmups. As he delivered the poem I realized that he didn’t stick to the theme given, but instead described his love for the game of football using the math terms.

The class roared on cheers upon his completion and the teacher grabbed the poem from him to share with other teachers who wandered into the class to congratulate him.”

The Pre-K class sitting together on a rug depicting the solar system, posing with Alice, a student volunteer.

#GivingArts4Learning: Shannon’s Story

Alice’s year at Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA) meant so much to her. The program helped bring clarity to math concepts my daughter was struggling with through an art form she loves, she felt confident, and she felt like she was part of something larger than herself. It made her feel proud of herself and proud of her community.

She wrote, “A lot of people think of Baltimore as how the news shows and talks about it. The news tends to only show the little bad things about us. I wish people could just see what SALA is like. It’s a perfect representation of Baltimore’s youth! It shows that we are creative, compassionate, caring, and loyal.” Now Rosario, my youngest daughter, looks forward to SALA every summer. And even though Alice is too old to attend, she volunteers in the program. “I can help and watch other children get the same great experience that I did.”

As I’ve seen with my own children, arts integration is not just fun in the moment. These are experiences that shape students’ mindsets, their education, their goals—experiences that students carry with them and inform their decisions for years to come. Please give today.

Children on stage in a row striking a very dramatic pose

Arts & Learning Days: A Taste of Summer in the School Year

A whole-child approach to learning puts significant focus on the social and emotional needs of students. And as we’ve seen in our Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA), the arts and arts integration pair naturally with social and emotional learning (SEL). In SALA, our teaching artists and their academic partners plan their lessons through a student-centered lens, giving children the opportunity to learn in a way that works best for them—and supplying them with the emotional tools they need to be successful and connected to the learning—and to each other. In fact, a report from Education Dive notes that in school, “artistic endeavors—whether performing, creating, or responding to others’ work—likely involve even more social-emotional skills and opportunities for students to practice them.”

Through drama, students in SALA feel the thrill of embodying their favorite storybook characters. They learn to express ideas through dance and emotions through music. They feel the pride of understanding mathematical concepts when, through visual arts, abstract ideas can be seen, felt, created, and replicated. What if we applied the artist expertise and program model that makes SALA so successful to the actual school year?

Knowing that MSDE-approved educational models like SALA’s can also be used to address many issues impacting education, our SALA team tailored its model to meet the needs of students who need extra schoolyear support and introduced Arts & Learning Days at three different sites in Baltimore City: Harlem Park Elementary/Middle, Collington Square Elementary/Middle, and Leith Walk Elementary/Middle. These new Arts & Learning Days give teachers and students the opportunity to teach and learn creatively, through self-expression, and with a focus on social and emotional wellbeing.

Arts & Learning Days:

  • Support students in afterschool time
  • Expose students to different art forms
  • Provide teacher professional development in arts integration
  • Increase academic performance

Each academic quarter has four Arts & Learning Days. On these days, five teaching artists spend the day at the school co-planning and co-teaching arts-integrated lessons with two different teachers each. Arts & Learning Days are more than artist residencies—they are real-time professional development for school-wide transformation. Teachers discover new ways to create engaging lessons, to blend academic and social and emotional learning, and to ignite creativity and self-expression—and they get to put it into practice right away!

Afterward, teachers and artists reflect and revise lessons. Classroom teachers also meet with Education Director Kristina Berdan multiple times, who offers the educators feedback and strategies to improve their practice.

Vonnya Pettigrew of Root Branch Film working with students to create a documentary.

The arts even extend into afterschool time when an artist or ensemble brings their program to an existing afterschool program for additional enrichment. This year alone, students enrolled in afterschool programs have already been able to work with Wombwork Productions, Inc., Vonnya Pettigrew of Root Branch Film, and Guardian Dance Company!

These opportunities for students and educators through Arts & Learning Days wouldn’t be possible without the support of the principals, the afterschool providers, and the teachers. We are looking forward to many more Arts & Learning Days to come and can’t wait to share them with you.

To access the Collington Square Arts & Learning Day 1 video transcript, click here.

Children kneeling on stage around a microphone and taking turns singing into it with musician Scott Paynter accompanying them on guitar.

Hear Scott Paynter on smARTbeats!

smARTbeats returns to WTMD on Saturday, October 19 during the weekly children’s program Young At Heart! On this month’s segment, host Lisa Mathews talks with Scott Paynter, or Scotty P as he’s known around town, one of our talented teaching artists from Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA). He embodies fun and warmth in his classroom and on stage as a solo performer and as a lead vocalist with the world-renowned reggae band Jah Works

“Jah Works is a true grassroots success story that emerged from Baltimore’s reggae scene over 20 years ago. This is music made by and for lovers of real, authentic reggae music. Consistently performing hundreds of shows a year worldwide, they have forged their sound in clubs, festivals and on the sun drenched beaches of Negril. Their sound is firmly planted in the roots of Jamaican music and culture, encompassing rock steady, reggae, and elements of dancehall and dub. What Jah Works does best is introduce the novice music listener to the fullness of reggae music and culture.” —from jahworks.com

Scott’s classroom in SALA is a creative and joyful place where music and children go hand in hand. Perhaps it’s because he got his own start in music as a young child with a guitar he built from plywood and yarn. How awesome that every summer he helps more young musicians discover their passion for music and songwriting!

Scott doesn’t just share his art form with students, he teaches them to demonstrate what they’ve learned through music. By writing songs about the books and stories they’ve read, children are able to dive deep into the different characters and their personalities—bringing them to life. Take this video, for instance, of Scott’s students performing a song they wrote with the artist about a book they read together called City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan.

It should come as no surprise that kids love coming to his class to sing and learn! Mr. P makes learning fun—and even though his time with them is relatively short, his patience and commitment to the students can be seen in the strengthening of their academic abilities, their understanding, and the genuine smiles on their faces.

Listen online now to the smARTbeats interview with Scott Paynter at WTMD.org

Young At Heart airs weekly on 89.7 WTMD 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. 

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 [email protected]. Your thoughtful input helps to make our programs the very best for students and we appreciate your time and dedication.

Young Audiences Art Crawl

Inspire, Imagine, Improve!

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

A few weeks ago, I was happy to attend Young Audiences’ third Art Crawl, held this year at the Single Carrot Theatre adjacent to YA’s offices.

For those of you who have not attended this annual event, I highly encourage you to do so. First of all, you’ll get to party with a group of fun, interesting, entertaining and dedicated folks. Secondly, you’ll get to enjoy the learning environment presented to the kids who attend YA’s Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA). And by that, I mean you’ll act, play music and create artwork, which helps you understand your reading assignment or your math homework. And finally, you get to nosh on great hors-d’oeuvres and sip handcrafted cocktails created by some of YA’s board members!

As always, I find myself splitting my time between talking to people I’ve met in the past, and meeting new folks who have interesting stories to tell. This time was no different. Balancing a plate of delicious appetizers from Copper Kitchen and a glass of wine provided by North Charles Fine Wine & Spirits, my husband and I soon found an empty spot at a table and introduced ourselves to Cori Daniel and Carlotta Williams. Turns out they were actually a teaching artist/teacher team who would later explore the book, Tar Beach, a story by artist Faith Ringgold recalling the dream adventure of a young girl flying high above her neighborhood in 1939 Harlem.

No matter the genre, the goal is making sure the children stay focused on the subject matter, sneakily presented as a lot of fun.

But I didn’t know this yet. What I did find out though was how long they had been teaching, what they taught, and I got to observe their obvious enthusiasm for the children and learning. Their animated conversation about their SALA classroom was fascinating, as were their fond memories of inspiring kids to learn while the children used their imaginations to improve their reading scores.

Oh, did I just use inspire, imagine and improve in one sentence? Yes, I did, and that is, of course, no accident. Having witnessed teachers and children in action in several of SALA’s classrooms this summer, and getting a chance to actually engage in it myself during Art Crawl is to truly understand how those three words create an arts-integrated learning environment that SALA uses to stem summer learning loss and bridge the Inspiration Gap.

Carlotta Williams, a second-grade teacher, co-taught literacy with artist Cori Daniels in Summer Arts & Learning Academy.

In SALA’s five-week summer classrooms, kids use a wide variety of art techniques to help them master core subjects – whether it’s textile art to illustrate a story they are studying or rapping their multiplication tables or dancing to show character development. No matter the genre, the goal is making sure the children stay focused on the subject matter, sneakily presented as a lot of fun.

And so it was. In the segment taught by the second-grade teacher and teaching artist I had just met, we warmed up with some dance movements to highlight acting concepts. Then we looked at the pictures in the book and explained what we saw in them. Finally, we paired off and used our imaginations to explore a special place for us – one that made us feel warm and welcomed.

Next up was a math segment, guided by teaching artist Nadia Rea Morales and teacher Jose Hernandez. With a chart in the room illustrating ones as yellow, tens as red, and hundreds as blue, I created a Piet Mondrian “masterpiece.”  The focus was to teach second-graders their ones, tens, and hundreds places and the relationships between digits and their place value. My own memory of learning such things was of boring, rote exercises that left me cold. Here, I hadn’t had so much fun with scissors and construction paper in ages. And to think – I was learning math!

Artist/teacher pair Nadia Rea Morales and Jose Hernandez teach math with the help of Piet Mondrian.

I ended the evening with teaching artist Christina Cook, who was surrounded by a variety of percussion instruments. As she demonstrated how these were used to sound out the syllables in words, I noticed how she was combining both math and vocabulary – a certain number of syllables to express a phrase, as she beat the rhythm on her drum.  She then handed out instruments and instructed us to follow along.

In addition, she said she used this technique to help the pre-K kids she taught to express their emotions. At first, she told us that the students mostly stuck to “happy” or “sad,” but soon she noticed that, as the kids gained confidence with the percussion pieces, their emotional range expanded, too. Now they were “curious” and “frustrated” and “ecstatic.” She admitted that she was impressed with the varying emotions the kids conveyed as well as the fact that they already had the vocabulary to communicate it. They had only needed the little nudge the music gave them to open up and express themselves more fully.

SALA teaching artist Christina Cook leads a lesson in identifying emotions and counting syllables through drumming.

I have to admit – Inspire, Imagine, Improve is a mantra I can really get behind. Because each time I’ve attended Art Crawl, I come away inspired by all the people who donate time, expertise and/or money to make SALA a reality for 2,100 elementary school-age kids.  I can only imagine how much harder it would be for the children and their teachers if this summer program didn’t exist. And I know that Young Audiences’ aim to improve test scores and access to arts-integrated learning is something I’m behind 100 percent.

Wouldn’t you like a little Inspire, Imagine, Improve in your life?  Come join us next year and I think you’ll find your own stories of imagination that inspire you to improve. Until then, Happy Holidays!

Jason Baker

smARTbeats with Jason Baker of Fractal Cat

smARTbeats returns to WTMD on Saturday, November 10 during the weekly children’s program Young At Heart! On this month’s segment, host Lisa Mathews talks with Jason Baker, one of our talented teaching artists from Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA). Jason is a board-certified music therapist and teaching artist by day. Kids lucky enough to have had him as their teacher in SALA over the past few summers will tell you he has a lot of wisdom and kindness to share. Do they even know that Jason is a bona fide rocker once the day is done?

Jason Baker with host Lisa Mathews in the WTMD studio.

In the classroom, Jason is known as a man who helps kids learn their math facts through writing their own beatbox riffs, who models compassion and collaboration, and who leads young percussionists with artistic excellence. No doubt, the same skills he uses as a music therapist cross over into his lessons. His students work diligently, checking their numbers and planning their beats in the arts-integrated math class. The kids are eager to support their peers as each finds the courage to perform their beatbox compositions at the mic.

Jason’s music majors exhibit the same cooperation and camaraderie as his math students. They don’t just play their instruments. With their drums in a circle, the young percussionists listen, they watch, they respond to one another. Their rhythm is alive and has a personality all its own.

By night, Jason Baker is the drummer for the highly acclaimed psychedelic rock band Fractal Cat. The classically trained musician’s beats are the pulse of Fractal Cat’s euphonic sound —and like a teacher in a classroom, he keeps the music rolling.

Young At Heart airs weekly on 89.7 WTMD 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.

Hear Jason Baker’s smARTbeats interview online now!

Arts Integration

Arts Integration: 1 + 2 = Fun!

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

When I was studying for exams in college, I would often create a strong visual image to help me remember test items. For example – the 6 C’s of credit? Character, capacity, capital, condition, collateral, cash flow. And while these concepts didn’t flow naturally through my brain, the image I created did. There was a guy (character) leaning on a crutch (condition) with a cap on (capacity) standing in front of the Capitol Dome (capital) with a briefcase (collateral) full of dollar bills (cash flow).

At the time I didn’t have a name for my study method – I just knew it worked for me. Years later I can now identify this as arts integration with an emphasis on a visual learning style.

And so I felt very at home as I toured Young Audiences’ Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA) at Lyndhurst Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore. That’s because each classroom was filled with young students learning in a variety of arts-integrated formats. I witnessed drama, rap songs, textile art, drawings, and writing—all used in conjunction with classwork such as a math problem or a reading assignment.

And while I knew, and the teachers knew, that these children were involved in thoughtful, hard work here—the serious business of arresting summer learning loss—the kids were focused on how much fun learning was. For example, in the PreK classroom, YA roster artist Mama Rashida of WombWork Productions and her teacher partner, Samantha Amey, worked with the students on a basic math problem: 1 + 2 = 3. Now, of course, you can force your brain to learn this by sheer rote repetition, but let’s face it. How exciting is that?

But if you illustrate it with a story about the marketplace where you must buy one fruit (fruit sellers stand here to the right!) and then move on to the vegetable stalls where you need a tomato and a carrot (veggie vendors over here, please!), you set the stage for a fun learning experience.

As the kids moved excitedly from place to place to “fill” their baskets or “sell” their wares, the teacher illustrated what they were doing on the whiteboard. With their “shopping” completed, the children returned to their seats and began to answer questions about the math problem. At this point, the teacher pretended to be confused and wrote wrong answers on the board. As the children rushed to correct her, she had them explain what was wrong, until everyone agreed that the proper answer was three.

No, this wasn’t bored voices droning “1 + 1 = 2,” “2 + 2 = 4.” Instead, these were kids excited about math, happy to supply the correct answer to a befuddled teacher and eager to learn more!

But what about English? A little later I stepped into a first-grade classroom where students were studying Charlotte’s Web. Here, I found a mix of visual art and drama being used to tell the story. Several children took turns at the front of the classroom with a drawing they had made. After displaying it, they then acted out that portion in mime. Initially, the teacher set the scene, reminding the kids what was happening in the story at this point. After the child was done, the teacher asked the other students what they had observed as their classmate portrayed the scene.

Later, I noticed a bulletin board filled with tiny spiders made using a modified papier mache technique, with pipe cleaner legs. As I looked at this, one young girl came up to me and proudly told me about the paper collages they had made to illustrate what the barnyard looked like. “They’re displayed outside the classroom. You have to see them!” Indeed, I did, and when I left, I enjoyed all the bright, cheery artwork that surrounded the door frame.

My next stop was a mixed class of second, third, and fourth graders who were working on both how to solve for an unknown number in a math problem and the nine’s in the multiplication table. And here is where I definitely appreciated the arts-integrated approach. I remember learning the nine’s and, oh, how I despised them.

But nobody seemed to hate nine’s here. Maybe that’s because as they chanted this portion of the multiplication table, not only did they give it a fun rap slant, but other classmates accompanied the song with percussion instruments. Why couldn’t they have done that when I was in school?

My final stop was to a fourth-grade classroom where the lesson was to reinforce the basic math operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division. Here, too, I felt very at home, but this time it was because not only did I recognize the teaching artist, YA roster artist Femi the DriFish, who I’ve witnessed teaching on several occasions, but I actually recognized kids whom I had seen before. This heightened my sense of how compelling arts-integrated learning is in capturing kids’ imaginations, so much so that they return for another summer of learning!

They rapped their way through a popular song remixed to describe math operations terms in word problems (equals to, divided by, times, added to, subtracted from, etc.) in preparation to shoot their own music video. As they practiced, I wondered what they would take away with them after this summer. Would they remember these lyrics and hum them in their head as they take a math quiz next year? Will they think about a marketplace full of vegetables and fruits and how math filled their baskets? Perhaps they’ll draw a picture that will help them recall the story they’re reading in class.

But most of all, will they remember the fun that accompanied all these math and English concepts? And that 1 + 2 = 3? I think so. And this funny little guy, leaning on his crutch with his cap, briefcase and dollar bills, standing in front of the Capitol agrees with me!

Young Audiences' Sun

Learn more about our mission, our methods, and our future plans during a one-hour Meet Young Audiences event. In addition to hearing from the organization’s leaders and getting an inside look into the amazing work we are doing around the state, one of our roster artists will share their amazing work with you and speak about how the arts complements and enriches classroom learning. Please reach out to Ingrid Murray, Individual Giving Manager, at [email protected] for more information or call (410) 837-7577 x. 107. Interested in hosting your own Meet Young Audiences event? Find out more here!