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

Summer Arts Programming Improves Academic Performance

Young Audiences Summer Arts Programming Improves Academic Performance

Baltimore students in Young Audiences Summer & Learning Arts Academy Outperform Peers

Baltimore City Public Schools students who participated in a new arts-related summer academic program from Young Audiences avoided summer learning loss and, in many cases, gained ground on their national peers in standardized testing, according to evaluations released Tuesday. The new findings showed potentially groundbreaking progress in tackling summer learning loss, a chronic challenge facing public schools.

The results, confirmed in two separate studies involving nearly 800 students, are significant because summer learning loss – particularly among students at or below poverty level – is among the most difficult challenges facing the Baltimore school district and other high-poverty schools across the country. During summer, students typically fall below where they ended the previous grade, setting them back as they start a new school year. In fact, a 2013 National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) survey of 500 teachers found that 66 percent reported the need to spend three to four weeks re-teaching students course material at the beginning of the year. Another 24% reported the need to spend five to six weeks doing the same.

“City Schools has enjoyed a great partnership with Young Audiences, not only during the school year but also the past two summers,” said Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises, chief executive officer of Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools). “During the summer, Young Audiences reinforces key math and reading concepts through the arts and creative activities – and we’re pleased with the results we’ve seen. When students participate in summer learning programs that help them move ahead or reduce learning loss, they start the school year off stronger.”

The Young Audiences Summer Arts & Learning Academy (SALA), run by the Baltimore-based arts-in-education nonprofit Young Audiences of Maryland in partnership with City Schools, was free for students and held at four sites across the city: Gardenville Elementary, Thomas Jefferson Elementary/Middle, William Pinderhughes Elementary, and Fort Worthington Elementary/Middle. Eighty-eight percent of the participating students were from high-poverty Title I schools.

“These results were a pleasant surprise given that we generally expect that students will lose ground over the summer,” commented Dr. Marc L. Stein, Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, who conducted a separate program evaluation for Young Audiences which looked at participating students’ academic skill and social-emotional development. “The Young Audiences summer program combines many of the best practices of summer learning programs and appears to be a promising model. These findings deserve to be investigated more rigorously to find out how and for whom the program appears to be working.”

“This is not your typical summer school program,” said Stacie Evans, Executive Director of Young Audiences. “We taught literacy and math through the arts every day and instruction was collaboratively taught by teaching artists and teachers specifically trained in arts-integration methods. If you walked into one of our classrooms, you might have seen students using hip hop music to help solve word problems in math, or creating dances to summarize and sequence main events in a story.”

The Baltimore City Public Schools evaluation found:

  • For math, statistically significant results showed that students in grades 3-5 who regularly attended (defined as attending at least 75% of the program) the SALA improved 1.8% percentile points in national student rankings on i-Ready standardized testing from the spring of 2016 to the fall of that year. That compares to a decrease of 2.8% percentile points for city schools students who did not attend any summer programming.
  • In reading, SALA students in grades 3-5 with regular attendance fell only .8% percentile points while students who did not attend any summer programming fell 2.1 percentile points upon returning to school in the fall.
  • Results for all grade 3-5 students regardless of attendance rate showed SALA attendees falling just .3% percentile points in math and .7% in reading. These were significantly smaller losses than students with no summer programming (down 2.8% in math, down 2.1% lost in reading).
  • In literacy, only 3% of the students in grades K-2 attending SALA did not meet their benchmark goal (the empirically derived target score that represents adequate reading progess1) on the standardized DIBELS assessment in the fall after returning to school compared to 8.1% of students not attending any summer programming not meeting the benchmark.

Young Audiences external program evaluation found:

  • 79% of students who attended at least 75% of the program and who took pre- and post-tests had a positive change from the first to the last week of the program on a curriculum based measure of mathematics.
  • Approximately 60% of students who attended at least 75% of the program and who took pre- and post-test writing prompts showed positive change in their structure and content of their writing.
  • 71% of students who attended 75% of the program and were administered pre- and post-assessments showed growth in at least one out of three social emotional competency areas over the course of the program. The social emotional competencies studied were relationship skills, self-awareness, and goal directed.

“The arts offer an extraordinary opportunity, particularly during the summer, to reignite the joy of learning and to set young people on the right course to start the school year strong. These impressive results from Young Audiences mirror findings of the landmark Wallace Foundation study showing that elementary school students with high levels of attendance in high-quality, voluntary summer learning programs can experience benefits in math and reading,” commented Matthew Boulay PhD, National Summer Learning Association founder and interim CEO.

Eric Harrell, father of 9 year-old Academy participant, Aria Harrell, said “Before this academy, I could tell that my daughter was struggling in math. By using the arts she was able to learn math in a different way-a way that worked for her. She has so much more confidence in her math class.”

Young Audiences' Sun

“Dibels Next Benchmark Goals and Composite Score, “ Dynamic Measurement Group, Inc. (December 1, 2010). https://dibels.uoregon.edu/docs/DIBELSNextFormerBenchmarkGoals.pdf

Links to complete City Schools and Young Audiences Evaluations:

YAMD evaluation

City Schools evaluation

Young Audiences’ Summer Arts & Learning Academy is funded by Baltimore City Public Schools, The Abell Foundation, The Family League of Baltimore with the support of the Mayor and the City Council of Baltimore, The Alvin and Fanny B. Thalheimer Foundation and individual contributions to Young Audiences. All participants are students at a Title I Baltimore City Public School.

Moving out of Our Comfort Zone

 Summer Arts Academy Teaching Artist Reflection with Valerie Branch

A reflection from Valerie Branch, professional dancer, master teaching artist, and YA roster artist, on the triumphs (and challenges) of teaching Summer Arts and Learning Academy kindergarteners math and literature through dance with her teacher partner, Sara Myers.

“If we stay true to our art form, and what we know about our art form, then the students have an active and engaging educational experience where they are learning, processing, and applying information.

At this year’s Summer Arts and Learning Academy, I was partnered with elementary school teacher, Sara Myers, at William Pinderhughes Elementary/Middle School in West Baltimore. Together, we taught kindergarteners math and literacy through dance and movement. I love working with this age group because it reminds me that we are all multi-sensory learners, it doesn’t just take one mode of teaching/instruction to help students learn.

In our arts-integrated math lessons, we created Number Bonds in motion to help the students gain a higher understanding of addition and subtraction. Students were able to break the number apart to figure out what two numbers it would take to create / get to that number; they were also able to put two numbers together and process the final product.

Valerie Branch Summer Arts and Learning Academy

It’s a fun and magical thing to watch the brain work and watch the students process and apply information learned. I saw students raise their hands for an answer – give the wrong answer – and not be afraid to use their brains to ultimately find the correct answer. I saw students learn about and apply their knowledge of contrasting words in their physical bodies, and they created dances that were a representation of these words.

Working with Ms. Myers was an awesome experience for me as a Teaching Artist. I loved that she always had new fresh ideas, and wasn’t afraid to try new things with our students. It’s so important to trust your teacher partner and build a strong collaborative relationship. If the students sense that you are not able to work together and respect one another, they will continually challenge that relationship. Be open, but also don’t be afraid to give your ideas and to take risks.

“When we’re fully engaging with the students, moving throughout the room, using all of our resources and allowing the students to take ownership of their learning — that is when we are having the best time together, and when the students are learning the most.

When we’re fully engaging with the students, moving throughout the room, using all of our resources and allowing the students to take ownership of their learning — that is when we are having the best time together, and when the students are learning the most. I appreciated that Ms. Myers was open and willing to have those experiences with us! However, it was important for us to be in tune with the needs of our students, to challenge them to push beyond their comfort zone, but also to know when they simply needed a break.

Valerie Branch Summer Academy culminating performance
Teacher partner, Sara Myers, facilitating a “brain break.”

In the afternoon, Academy teaching artists have the opportunity to share their art form with students during artist-led Arts Explorations classes. These daily classes gave students the chance to delve deeper into dance and movement.

Zoe, a student from my last Arts Exploration class, came to me very shy and almost afraid to shine. I challenged her to push past her comfort zone and be proud of her individuality. There were times during class when she would simply shut down. However, I continued to work with and encourage her, and it was amazing to see her classmates also supporting her.

Our ultimate goal in this Arts Exploration class was to create a dance about friendship, a dance we would later perform during a culminating event on the last day of the Academy. Through perseverance and her ability to trust herself, she was able to obtain a starring role in the dance, working together with another student to create a duet that began the whole dance.

As with any live performance, even though you make a plan, you simply do not know what is going to happen on the day of the show. On the day of our culminating performance —and in front of dozens of other students, parents, teachers, and artists — Zoe truly rose to the occasion and was a star performer. I was so proud of what she was able to accomplish and to see all our young students working together to create dances. They collaborated, engaged in meaningful discussion with one another, and were able to activate their short-term and long-term memory skills to process information and produce work.

Valerie Branch Summer Academy culminating performance

“As with anything we do in life, in our careers as artists, etc., we face challenges. It’s how we deal with those challenges that define the person we are and are striving to be.”

Every day there was a challenge at the Academy, whether it was too hot in the building, students having a difficult time adjusting, creating an effective lesson structure that engages all students, or making sure that I remained as neutral and open as possible. I think what was remarkable about this whole experience is that we — myself, my teacher partner, and our students — always started each day with a fresh, clean slate. We continually found ways to improve the course of our day and the success of each child.

We encouraged our students to continue to rise above the challenges and try their best in all things. It was simply an awesome experience walking into or leaving the building and have students call out to say “Good Morning” or “Goodbye,” and run up to you to give a hug. You know you’ve positively impacted a child simply by the way they engage with you — even if the events of the day brought some challenges.

Valerie Branch Summer Academy culminating performance          Summer Arts Academy Teaching Artist Reflection with Valerie Branch          Valerie Branch Summer Arts and Learning Academy

Learn more about Valerie Branch or schedule a program

——–

The mission of  Young Audiences’ Summer Arts and Learning Academy is to provide Baltimore City Public School students with an opportunity to spend a summer learning from the best teachers and teaching artists in Maryland. Through a dynamic and supportive environment, students developed an understanding of the creative process and 21st Century Skills with an exploration into arts integration that focused on math and literacy. Students had a fabulous culminating event, showcasing their skills in visual art, songwriting, spoken word poetry, dance, piano, drumming, playwriting, fiber art, and filmmaking.

The Academy is funded by Baltimore City Public Schools, The Abell Foundation, The Family League of Baltimore with the support of the Mayor and the City Council of Baltimore, The Alvin and Fanny B. Thalheimer Foundation and individual contributions to Young Audiences. All participants are students at a Title I Baltimore City Public School.

Learn more about the Summer Arts and Learning Academy https://www.yamd.org/programs/summer-arts-academy/
Young Audiences Summer Arts Academy group photo

Summer Arts and Learning Academy: Parents Reflect on their Child’s Transformation

Young Audiences Summer Arts Academy group photo

We spoke with several parents of Young Audiences Summer Arts and Learning Academy students for their take on the experience.

What a summer! As we head back into classrooms for this school year, we can’t help but reminisce about such a wonderful Young Audiences Summer Arts and Learning Academy. July’s free, five week program encouraged 800+ Baltimore City students grades K-5 to explore creation and expression through arts like painting, poetry, dance, filmmaking, songwriting and visual art. Students used arts integration to build skills in language arts and math while exploring and developing their artistic interests.  

Not only did we and our students love the experience, but their parents did too! We spoke with parents to get their take on the Summer Arts and Learning Academy and its benefits for their children:

Albert Fluker, Father of Uriah, incoming 5th grader: A big fan of Summer Arts and Learning Academy, Albert would recommend the program to any parent, highlighting how it encourages free self-expression in public while also allowing for parent-child bonding.


The children get to partake in something they really enjoy and parents have the opportunity to bond  with them while doing it. Together, Uriah and I learned to build a walking robot and attended  workshop with dancers. It was awesome. I even attended the Artscape performance, where kids had the flexibility to express themselves. They overcame fear and shyness and build confidence to perform in public.”

Young Audiences Summer Arts Academy Parent Workshop making robots with FutreMakers
Summer Arts and Learning Academy Parent Workshop with FutureMakers



Nikia Smith, Mother of Bailey, incoming 1st grader: Nikia liked the arts-integration and visual approach to teaching at Summer Arts Academy. It helped her daughter open up and focus on topics she was less excited about.

I really like the way the arts were integrated into the academics like math and reading. Bailey is a visual  learner, and she was very excited knowing something fun was coming up at the end of the day. It helped  her focus and practice her math and reading. Additionally, the collective style of teaching and  learning – lots of dancing and singing – had Bailey opening up more throughout the year. I think that’s  because of the arts. It really opens the mind!”  

Young Audiences Summer Arts Academy First grader creating Math Monsters with cut paper
First grader creating Math Monsters with cut paper in arts integration period.

Lorna Ajala, Mother of Tiffini, incoming 6th grader: Lorna and her daughter Tiffini can’t get enough of the Summer Arts Academy. She praised how integrating the arts opened her daughter’s mind to new possibilities and built confidence.

Summer Arts Academy truly brings out and introduces new possibilities to a child. Tiffini has always  enjoyed artsy things, but she would constantly say she wanted to be a lawyer. Then, when she  experienced Summer Arts Academy and was introduced to various art forms, it really sparked something in her. Now, she wants to be a designer. She was so amazed that she could have these opportunities. I am so glad this program came about!”

At the Summer Arts Academy, middle school students work on hand-building techniques in artist, Mama Sallah's, classroom.         Young Audiences Summer Arts Academy Fashion Design project for culminating performance at Thomas Jefferson Elementary Middle          _MG_1733

Hearing this amazing feedback is why we do what we do. The arts can have a life-changing effect on a child, and integrating them with education has benefits in and out of the classroom. It builds confidence, encourages expression, and introduces kids to new possibilities.

See more photos from the Summer Arts and Learning Academy on our Flickr!

To learn more about the Summer Arts Academy or how Young Audiences can reach your child or classroom, click here


YA’s Expanded Summer Arts and Learning Academy Kicks Off Today!

This morning, we kicked off our expanded Summer Arts and Learning Academy – a free, five week program immersing 900 City students in a variety of art forms taught by 36 locally-based professional artists. The full-day program welcomes students grades K-5, encouraging imagination, creation and expression through the arts, such as painting, songwriting, spoken word poetry, dance, piano, singing, visual art, sound production, playwriting, fiber art, and filmmaking.

Our kickoff this morning was a blast – welcoming students and their parents to the Academy’s four sites with high-energy performances, live music, and vibrant interactive art demonstrations – giving them a preview of the truly unique and empowering experiences to come throughout the next five weeks.

Sankofa and Steve Cyphers kick off the Summer Arts and Learning Academy at Fort Worthington Elementary School.
Sankofa with YA roster artist and percussionist Steve Cyphers (far right) kicking off the Summer Arts and Learning Academy at Fort Worthington Elementary School.

Due to last year’s success; with academic gains by students drawing from 93 different city schools—the district asked us to expand the Academy to four sites: Thomas Jefferson Elementary, William Pinderhughes Elementary, Gardenville Elementary and Fort Worthington Elementary.

Working with kids as they discover passions, refine creative processes and integrate arts in their everyday learning is an inspirational experience we and our Teaching Artists look forward to every year. We spoke with a few participating Teaching Artists about their plans and why the Summer Arts Academy is such a great opportunity for students and artists:

Scott Paynter, reggae singer:

I wanted to teach at this year’s Summer Arts and Learning Academy to gain more experience working with Baltimore’s greatest resource…it’s children. My art form helps students express themselves through lyrics, it introduces them to cultures and people they’ve never encountered before, and it brings life to a classroom environment. Music is like a force of nature. It’s everywhere you are if you pay attention.”

Bridget Cavaiola, Baltimore Improv Group:

This is such a unique experience to provide our students with collaborative and engaging arts experiences that they may not get to during the school year. The mood and energy are contagious as you get to watch the students engage themselves in something in which they have passion.”

Alden Phelps, musician:

My focus has always been on playing with words and the joy of language. Language is the foundation of how we communicate and function as human beings. Students who practice manipulating language, expanding their vocabulary, using rhymes, and counting syllables will better succeed in their regular academic work. Creative thinking opens up new pathways in our brains. There’s also a wonderful freedom when a student can express an idea creatively. They synthesize their academic knowledge with skill in the arts, such as using color or figurative language, and the result is far more engaging to them.”

YA roster artist and professional dancer Valerie Branch (left) leading the kickoff at William Pinderhughes Elementary.

pinderhughes5 pinderhughes6pinderhughes1

Students will imagine, create and express themselves through the arts, with a chance to concentrate on two art forms. The students even show-off their talents at Artscape, at pop-up performances in mobile art galleries around the city and at the August 5 final culminating event. We can’t wait to see the students perform!

After this morning’s successful kick-off event, led by teaching artists Valerie Branch and Sean Roberts, at William Pinderhughes Elementary, one parent said:

“I am just so excited to get to see my child perform soon. Seeing what the [teachers and artists] did just now, I know they are in trusted hands. It made me look at my daughter and think yes! This is going to be different, we are so excited! She LOVES art! I can’t wait for the workshops too!”

Young Audiences’ Summer Arts and Learning Academy is funded by Baltimore City Public Schools, The Abell Foundation, The Family League of Baltimore with the support of the Mayor and the City Council of Baltimore, The Alvin and Fanny B. Thalheimer Foundation and individual contributions to Young Audiences. All participants are students at a Title I Baltimore City Public School.

Learn more about the Summer Arts and Learning Academy.

Model the Way

Young Audiences Arts Integration Specialist Kristina Berdan leading the arts-integrated Professional Development Week for teachers and artists Summer Arts and Learning Academy.
This week, Kristina Berdan, Young Audiences Arts Integration Specialist, led a week of professional development in Arts Integration for 72 Summer Arts and Learning Academy teachers and artists. The Academy kicks off on July 5.

How our teachers and artists get ready for Young Audiences’ Summer Arts and Learning Academy

If you were a school teacher and had just spent the last ten months in the classroom, where would you be on the 7th morning of your vacation? In bed? In your PJs on the couch? Perhaps in Ocean City? Anywhere, but a school building participating in 35 hours of professional development and gearing up for 5 weeks of summer school, right?

On the 7th morning of their summer break, 36 of our amazing Baltimore City Public Schools teachers were with Young Audiences and their 36 teaching artist partners participating in a week of professional development and preparation to teach in Young Audiences’ Summer Arts and Learning Academy, which kicks off at four sites July 5. We’re talking true dedication!

Whether Young Audiences is working with kids or adults, we believe learning should be creative and fun. That goes for these 36 teachers! Thankfully, Kristina Berdan, who designed this week-long training, is Young Audiences’ Queen of Fun! But not just your normal fun — the intense, laugh-out-loud, creative, hard fun — that comes with joyful learning through the arts.

Case in point: Kristina wrote, sang and recruited backup dancers to perform a parody of the classic, “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (lyrics shared at the bottom) to welcome our teachers to the training.

When asked what inspired her to create and perform this song, Kristina said she wanted to do something special for the teachers and teaching artists. After all, they are giving up their summer break (and the rare opportunity to sleep in!) for the next five weeks to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of children who normally would not be able to afford this opportunity.

Young Audiences is asking a lot of our teachers and artists. We expect them to challenge our students AND themselves to take creative risks, try something new, and put themselves and their powerful ideas “out there,” regardless of who is watching.

yaPD_20yaPD_1 yaPD_6

Some examples of how that happens: Teachers who have never tried incorporating vocal percussion into math lessons will be doing so with help from their partner musician. And dancers who have never connected dance to literacy units will be doing just that with their partner teacher. Through this training, we help all teachers and artists take risks, learn and actively collaborate to develop their craft.

Dawn Johnson, a fourth-grade teacher, said the difference in how Young Audiences develops teachers lies in creativity. “When you are creative about it, people are going to remember what you are teaching them. That is why I love this training and love arts integration. In many trainings I go to as a teacher, instructors sit and present information. They tell us what to do but don’t model and show us how to do it. If you expect the world out of us, then show us what you want it to look like by modeling it. That’s why arts integrated trainings are so incredible.”

yaPD_9 yaPD_2 yaPD_18 yaPD_19

The training that Kristina has designed is filled with intense, thoughtful, collaborative sessions, including:

  • How to create a learning environment that impacts the social emotional learning of students
  • How to use portfolios to give students a voice in sharing work that is important to them
  • How to connect reading and writing exercises to students’ lives
  • How to intentionally build community
  • How to create authentic opportunities for students to reflect on their work and their own creative processes
  • How to integrate the art authentically into literacy and math

Kristina and her team modeled how to do all of this through the arts and through powerful partnerships between artists and teachers in classrooms.

After the 35 hours of arts integration training wrapped up on June 30, our 72 Academy teachers and teaching artists walked away inspired and prepared to create a world for their students filled with creativity, meaning, connections, joy and — of course, learning! Here are some final thoughts shared by both teachers and artists on our Graffiti Reflection Wall:

image (11) Teacher Professional Development  in Arts Integration Teacher Professional Development  in Arts Integration Teacher Professional Development  in Arts Integration Teacher Professional Development  in Arts Integration Teacher Professional Development  in Arts Integration Teacher Professional Development  in Arts Integration

To see Kristina in action, performing this song (lyrics below!) at the training, click here!

Summer summer summertime
Time to stop the summer slide

Here it is the school
Greatly transformed
Just a bit of a break from the norm

Just a little somethin’ to break the monotony
Of all that hardcore school that has gotten to be
A little bit out of control it’s cool to learn —
But what about the arts that soothe and move our kids
Math and literacy in the mix
Cuz we know it works so let’s put on the fix
And think of the schooling of the past
Adjust the stress — let creativity blast
Artists and teachers together in time

Just put them in classrooms and lay back
and this is summertime

Chorus
School is out and it’s a sort of a buzz
And back then I didn’t really know what it was

But now I see what have of this
The way that kids respond to these artists

The classroom — it rocks and kids are singing tunes
And sculpting with clay and dancing through rooms

Rapping to their beats and acting on their feets
Filming and recording — all out of their seats

Here in BMore we are in four schools
All filled with arts cuz we know that’s cool
Kids are reading and writing through the arts
Doing math, making art, reflecting, showing their hearts

Being assessed in many different ways
Celebrating learning each and every day
And with a pen and pad we composed this rhyme
To hit you and get you equipped for the summertime
Chorus 

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Follow us throughout the next five weeks as we share daily inspiration from Summer Arts and Learning Academy classrooms!

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I Am Baltimore

by Ken’Niya Baltimore, Young Audiences Summer Arts Academy student

My name is Ken’Niya Baltimore. I am 13 years old and in the 8th grade at Henderson Hopkins. During the summer, my mother told me that I was accepted into Young Audiences’ Summer Arts Academy. My face was puzzled because I had no idea I was even signed up. But after I started to learn more about the program, I could not wait for it to start. Before it started, I would take my 5-year-old sister to school and come home. My father was at work, my mother was in school, so I was at home alone, watching TV, bored out of my life.

Before I started the program I did not know there were celebrities here in Baltimore that should be in Hollywood with Taraji P. Henson or Beyoncé — artists like Femi the DriFish or Black Root. These were my teachers!

When I first arrived at the Academy I did not want to talk out a lot or share any ideas that I had in groups. I took poetry, theatre, and hip hop dance.  In my hip hop dance class, I had to dance differently in front of the class which I was not comfortable.  I had to realize that I need to get myself together and be more confident.  Confident.  That word helped me out a lot.  In all the classes I took I had that word in my mind — I kept telling myself that I can do it. I can do it just keep going. In dance class, I told myself I cannot do it, but I knew that, in life, I will always have to try something new so I danced a solo at the Academy’s final performance!

My poetry class was my favorite. Femi the DriFish was my favorite teacher because he helped me a lot through my writing by giving me examples and showing me his awesome poems. The most challenging and rewarding thing I did in the Academy was my poem “I am Baltimore.” It was emotional because of what was going on my city. I wanted to quit and switch classes but I realized I was the oldest in the class and the younger kids were having the same problem. So I told myself if you quit, they will too. So I pushed myself and everyone else, and made sure we were organized and ready to perform.

I am Baltimore by KenNiya Baltimore

I performed that poem at Artscape.

When the program ended I did not want to leave. I wanted to cry and stay longer. I asked the teachers, “Can I come back next year and help as a youth worker?” I already knew that wasn’t an option because I would be in the 9th grade and too old for the program, but I told my parents I would find a way to get back there. This experience has impacted my life so much. I now feel great about speaking to a crowd. I feel confident about my tomorrow. I am going to attend City College or Baltimore School for the Arts. I am going to be an actress, writer, producer, and lawyer…and maybe in my spare time a singer.

I hope many kids have the same experience I did at the Summer Arts Academy; it will change their lives too.

Summer Arts Academy

A Teacher’s Story

by Tracey Cooper, Science Teacher at Oxon Hill Middle School and Site Director of Young Audiences’ Summer Arts Academy

I am a wife, mother, and educator. I have spent the past 14 years in Baltimore City as a science teacher, department head, and district coordinator for summer programs.

When I graduated from Towson University, I wanted to leave my mark and change the world. I wanted to instill a love for science and learning.  I thought I had everything I needed – plus an amazing collection of professional attire! Reality, however, did not get the memo. That first year was a bust!

I followed the lessons in the book, but most students were not engaged.  I gave up my *beloved* summer vacation to teach science in summer school, hoping to learn alternative ways to deliver the lessons. That first summer, I had 20 students on my roster and a binder full of stock lessons. Only 9 students attended. Only 4 of those 9 passed. Another bust.

Over the years, I improved my lessons and grew in my profession. Student achievement increased, but I wanted more. Eventually, I became a coordinator for summer programs at Baltimore City Schools. And the year I met and collaborated with Young Audiences of Maryland, I fell in love.

Over the next few of summers, I worked with Young Audiences revising the way we did things in summer school.  Artists were more actively involved in the content classes and were not just providing enrichment for students.  We initiated a co-teaching model between artists and the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) instructors.

Summer Arts Academy
An Academy student shows off her hand-built clay sculpture.

Attendance soared.  The attendance rate was the highest we had seen over the past three summers. Students who were enrolled in the arts-integrated lessons did better on their math and science tests. I finally saw that education could be fun and creative for both students and teachers. Artists and teachers maximized their professional abilities through collaboration and support, creating a rich tableau of experiences for students.

This past summer, Baltimore City Schools asked Young Audiences to develop a more comprehensive summer learning program. Although I had different plans for my summer, how could I pass on the opportunity to work as a site director with Young Audiences of Maryland?

The result? The Summer Arts Academy: a fully arts-integrated summer learning program that provided a dynamic, creative, and supportive environment for students to learn about the creative process and grow socially, emotionally, and academically.

Teachers received dynamic training from the Maryland State Department of Education and planned integrated lessons with engaging strategies that included movement, rap, and improv! Each week, teachers reflected on their work with the teaching artists, modifying, as needed, both teaching practice and student process. Other summer learning sites had discipline issues, but our students were too busy learning and having fun.

Summer Arts Academy
Young Audiences Media and Digital Arts teacher, Ras Tre, demonstrates filming techniques for an Academy student.

This experience has inspired not only students but also teachers.  As an educator, I see a new way to instruct our children and make an impact. I now use the arts integration techniques I learned over the summer to encourage and empower students and teachers.  Young Audiences’ comprehensive approach to arts integration maximizes the learning process for educators. With the help of Young Audiences, students may have found a love of learning, but I have been renewed in the art of teaching.  Reality seems to have finally gotten the memo!

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Summer Arts Academy Launch 6.2015-1

Welcome to the Summer Arts Academy 2015!

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Young Audiences has again partnered with Baltimore City Public Schools to make sure that arts-integrated learning does not end with the school year. On Monday, June 29, energy filled the gymnasium of Thomas Jefferson Elementary/Middle School as Young Audiences artists greeted 250 Baltimore City students and their families with high-energy performances, live music, and vibrant interactive art demonstrations during the kick-off assembly of the Summer Arts Academy.

The Academy is a five-week, city-wide program that provides students, third-grade through seventh-grade, with a free once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend their summer learning from the talented artists who live in our communities. The Academy was created as part of City Schools CEO Dr. Gregory Thornton’s plan to increase arts education opportunities for Baltimore City students. The Academy’s literacy component, with the overarching theme of “What Makes a Hero?” will be team-taught through the arts by City Schools teachers and faculty artists specializing in visual art, sound production, clay, African Drumming, modern and African dance, and improvisational and urban theatre. The Academy also gives students the opportunity discover art forms they have never experienced before and delve into two artistic disciplines of their choice. Students will perform at Artscape and visit other arts destinations through field trips. See the full list of the Academy’s artist faculty here!: Summer Academy Artists

Summer Arts Academy Launch 6.2015-6

See more photos from the Summer Arts Academy kick-off assembly here!

Hip Hop musician Jamaal “Mr. Root” Collier set the stage for the crowd during the Academy’s kick-off assembly. Joined by another Young Audiences musician, Kevin Gift, on the turntables, the performance used high-energy beats, improvised rapping, and beatboxing to get the crowd swaying and dancing. A couple of shy boys watched from afar, but slowly began to inch their way toward the booming set with growing curiosity.

Nearby, the dance moves of Cynthia Chavez of Baltimore Dance Crews Project (BDCP), caught the eye of three girls who were interested in learning how to moonwalk. Cynthia worked through foot techniques and demonstrations until the girls were ready to  try it themselves.

Filmmaker and photographer Ras Tre showed one intrigued student how he operates his professional video camera equipment.

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Artists, students, and family members began to gather on the dance floor as the popular music began to flow out of the speakers. One talented student stepped toward the center of the floor with confidence. He began to lead the choreography of one popular song while the crowd stepped back, learned the moves, and cheered him on. This encouraged other nearby students and artists to join in until the entire dance floor was full.

The assembly wrapped up with artists, teacher partners, and other Academy staff introducing themselves by dancing onto the stage. As students broke off into their grade-level groups, one parent asked: “Is there an adult Young Audiences class that the parents can take? We want to have this much fun, too!”

Summer Arts Academy Launch 6.2015-2

On average, all children can lose approximately two months of learning from the previous school year during the summer months without engaging education activities, and for low-income students, the loss is even greater. More than half of the achievement gap between low-income students and their more affluent peers can be attributed to the unequal access to summer learning opportunities. Programs like the Summer Arts Academy provide students with a safe place to go during the day, access to free healthy meals, adequate adult supervision, and positive, educational activities.

The high-energy kick-off assembly was only the beginning of what is to be expected this summer. Be sure to follow the Young Audiences blog, as well as our Facebook page, for updates from the Summer Arts Academy throughout July.