Innovative Program Brings Arts Integration to Early Childhood Education in Baltimore

Baby Artsplay!™ provides multi-sensory learning at Judy Centers with funding from Saul Zaentz Foundation

BALTIMORE – Beginning this month, hundreds of Baltimore’s youngest children, their families, care providers, and educators will engage in hands-on, arts-integrated programs at five Baltimore City Public School Judy Centers that support early childhood education and expand kindergarten readiness. This innovative new initiative is being offered by the local nonprofit, Young Audiences of Maryland.

Baby Artsplay!™, a nationally-renowned program developed by the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, serves infants and toddlers from birth to age three and the family members and educators who play a critical role in their development. Wolf Trap is a nationally respected leader in early childhood education research and programming and is supported by the U.S. Department of Education.

“Research shows that early childhood programs are critical to school readiness and that the arts foster language development as well as social and emotional development, creativity, and self-expression—all of which contribute to school readiness and the long-term success of kids.”

The program’s creative caregiver/child workshops, classroom programs, and professional development for caregivers are led by teaching artists—professional artists who have been trained by Wolf Trap to integrate their art forms into more traditional learning settings.

The launch of Baby Artsplay!™ in Baltimore is funded through a $360,000 grant from the Saul Zaentz Foundation. The program is now offered in several cities including Indianapolis, New Orleans, Fairfax, and Pittsburgh.

Through Young Audiences, Baby Artsplay!™ programming began in October at five Baltimore City Public School Judy Centers and their care provider affiliates. The Judy Centers include: Liberty Judy Center, Moravia Judy Center, Harford Heights Judy Center, Lakeland Judy Center, and the DRU Judy Center at Dorothy I Height Elementary. Judy Centers throughout Maryland provide wrap-around services for early childhood development and parenting support.

Baby Artsplay!™ programming includes:

● Caregiver/Child Workshops: Caregivers and their children work with teaching artists in the performing arts to enhance parenting and playtime techniques by incorporating singing, dancing, drama, and multi-sensory experiences. Teaching Artists guide caregivers as they engage with their children, encouraging mindfulness and intentionality in common parenting practices such as rocking children, singing to them, and more. These free, drop-in workshops also provide tips to continue the approach at home.

● Teaching Artist Residencies: Teaching artists work with teachers and care providers to create arts-integrated experiences in their classrooms that provide social and emotional, empathy-filled learning to children. Teaching Artists guide teachers and care providers in research-based techniques similar to those in parent workshops, all with the goal of aligning joyful learning with children’s developmental needs.

● Professional Development: Pre-K teachers, kindergarten teachers, and care providers convene at Judy Centers for an immersive, three-hour professional development experience to build skills in creative childhood development using research-based arts-integrated approaches.

“Research shows that early childhood programs are critical to school readiness and that the arts foster language development as well as social and emotional development, creativity, and self-expression—all of which contribute to school readiness and the long-term success of kids,” said Stacie Sanders Evans, Young Audiences President & CEO. “We are thrilled that, thanks to the Saul Zaentz Foundation, we can infuse the arts into the development of children in the first years of their lives.”

“Baby Artsplay is an engaging program with a great teacher and is a big draw for our Judy Center families with babies and toddlers,” said Crystal Francis, Director of Early Learning at Baltimore City Public Schools. “Thank you to Young Audiences and the Saul Zaentz Foundation for helping to make this program possible.”

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 over 7,000 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.

YA and Wolf Trap Present ‘Beautiful Surprises’ at 2016 Arts Education Partnership National Forum

Beautiful Surprises
A scene from “Beautiful Surprises,” a short documentary highlighting how arts-integrated learning can have a powerful —and sometimes unexpected— impact on students and educators through the Maryland Wolf Trap Early Learning Through the Arts Program.

The Arts Education Partnership, a national network of organizations, is dedicated to advancing the arts in education through research, policy, and practice. Its annual conference, Arts Education Partnership National Forum: The Arts Leading the Way to Student Success, Oct. 5-7 in Denver, Colo., draws some of the nation’s most influential arts and education leaders. Attendees convene to explore arts-centered solutions as states across the country implement higher learning expectations aimed at ensuring America’s young people leave high school ready for college, careers, and citizenship.

The AEP National Forum provides a valuable platform for examining rigorous research, promising education policy, and effective practices designed to significantly improve student outcomes, both during the school day and out-of-school time. Young Audiences/Arts for Learning of Maryland and Arts for Learning/Miami are joining the Wolf Trap Institute to present Beautiful Surprises: Reaching Learners with Special Needs through Arts Integration to attendees of this year’s conference.

During the session, panelists from Wolf Trap and Young Audiences will share the short-film “Beautiful Surprises,” explore the substantial benefits of early childhood arts integration for learners with disabilities, and provide ten steps to designing an inclusion program. Panelists include:

Jennifer Cooper
Director, Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts

Kurtis Donnelly
Director, Maryland Wolf Trap
Chief Operating Officer, Young Audiences of Maryland

Betsy Mullins
Director, South Florida Wolf Trap
Artist Services Director, Arts for Learning, Miami

Sue Trainor
Master Teaching Artist, Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts

Arts integration is a valuable tool for reaching multiple learning styles across the curriculum and is linked to enhanced academic outcomes and social/emotional development, including for children with special needs. Wolf Trap Institute affiliates Young Audiences/Arts for Learning of Maryland and Arts for Learning/Miami are both making great strides in their communities by providing intensive inclusion training for teaching artists.

Learn more about our work in early childhood education through the Maryland Wolf Trap program. Get more information on the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) National Forum: The Arts Leading the Way to Student Success and join the conversation online with #AEPNF16.

Donor Spotlight: T. Rowe Price Foundation

Since 1950, Young Audiences of Maryland (YA) has significantly expanded the availability of educational and culturally diverse art programs for Baltimore City youth. YA’s programs are delivered in multiple settings including schools, libraries, and community centers. In 2013, YA grew its capacity to serve our youngest students by becoming the sole Maryland affiliate of the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts. Wolf Trap, the National Park for the Performing Arts, has spent the last 30 years developing the 16-session arts-based residency model, which supports improved literacy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) skills in early learners.

During the residency, trained teaching artists work with classroom teachers through a comprehensive modeling and collaborative co-teaching approach to build teachers’ arts-integration knowledge and skills and enable them to incorporate new practices in their classrooms. A 2006 Wolf Trap study¹, supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Education, showed that preschool students whose teachers participated in Wolf Trap residencies grew in every measured area and strengthened their math, literacy, creativity, and social and emotional skills.

In 2014-15 alone, Young Audiences served 52 teachers—and 1,163 Baltimore City pre-k and kindergarten students—through the Wolf Trap residency program. The T. Rowe Price Foundation has been a longstanding supporter of YA and, more recently, the Wolf Trap Early Learning classroom residency program. Since its founding in 1981, the T. Rowe Price Foundation has worked closely with nonprofits to identify innovative solutions that improve educational outcomes for youth and enrich community life. YA is grateful to the T. Rowe Price Foundation for supporting our work for nearly 20 years and for helping to launch the Wolf Trap initiative in Baltimore.

T.Rowe-Price-FoundationAccording to John Brothers, the Foundation’s president, “We have been pleased to support YA and its mission of integrating arts into the educational process, particularly for children who have limited exposure to the arts. The classroom residency program is backed by research and the Wolf Trap Institute’s ongoing commitment, and it aligns with the Foundation’s desire to support innovative practices that enhance educational opportunities and outcomes for youth.”

Through the combined efforts of YA and the T. Rowe Price Foundation, Baltimore City’s youngest low-income students have a greater opportunity to gain the skills and knowledge that they need to succeed in school and in life.

Learn more about how our Wolf Trap classroom residencies can motivate and empower early learning teachers and their students!

For more information about the T. Rowe Price Foundation, please visit their website.

¹Klayman, D. (2006). Executive summary of the final evaluation report for Fairfax pages professional development project: An effective strategy for improving school readiness. Potomac, MD: Social Dynamics.

How song and dance changed my classroom

By Morgan Lyons, Kindergarten Teacher, William S. Baer School

WT 7

When I first heard that an artist-in-residence program was coming to my school, William S. Baer, I was excited. I learned about arts integration while I was studying education in college and wanted to find a way to use the arts in my teaching, especially when I decided I wanted to teach special education. I feel that the arts are an amazing pathway, particularly for kids who might not necessarily understand the material when taught in a more traditional way. When I found out that this opportunity was being offered at my school, I was thrilled; I jumped at the opportunity.

As a relatively new teacher, I knew I wanted to integrate the arts into the curriculum in some way, I just didn’t know how. Our curriculum is structure- and task analysis-based and there did not seem to be a lot of room for the arts, but Sue Trainorthe Wolf Trap-trained artist who I worked with during the 16-session residency, taught me how to make arts integration work for our program and how it could help our students.

The program began with Sue showing me her lesson plan, which we used for our first session with students. We continued to use Sue’s plans for a few weeks. After every lesson we talked about how it went–what the high point was and what we could work on for the next session. As the program went on, it developed and changed so that I was giving more feedback and Sue was asking me more questions. I began to take more of the lead, and I grew from a consultant role on lesson plans, to writing the lesson plans with Sue, to creating the whole lesson myself. This was a great way for me to learn because I got to watch Sue, I collaborated, and then it was all me.

Sue taught me a lot of arts integration techniques that I continue to use every day in my teaching. We incorporate music and visual representation throughout the day which makes for more engaging activities. We sing through transitions and when we’re teaching new material, such as shapes, letters, colors, and numbers.

One thing Sue and I collaborated on was the idea of using a mirror with my students. My students are kindergartners with autism. Students with autism often have a skewed perception of themselves and have a hard time making a mind-body connection. The mirror’s reflection serves as an additional visual for them and provides a form of visual feedback. Rather than me just saying, “Touch your head,” they actually see themselves do that motion and make the connection.

Sue also taught me what has become the go-to opening sequence for our classroom. It’s a series of two or three short songs that integrate body movement, beat, and tone. This new practice has had a huge effect on my students, but it had an enormous impact on one student in particular.

WT 5

See a sample arts-integrated lesson plan created by Morgan and Sue here!

Brittany was new to our school this year. She had never had a school experience, and she was very quiet and kept to herself. Sue came in and introduced the song and movement sequence to the students, and she asked them to mirror her actions. When Sue told students to “Show me your hand,” students were asked to mirror Sue by raising their hands like she had raised hers. Brittany took to that, and she was soon asking for the song specifically by using sign language, which she had no exposure to before. Brittany was communicating and expressing her desire for the song; she was actively participating and engaging with her eyes. Had Sue not introduced this activity, Brittany may not have engaged with the group for quite some time. She has really benefited from the social lessons Sue brought to our classroom during this program.

My hope is that this experience and opportunity is available to as many teachers as possible, regardless of their academic area, because it has helped my classroom beyond words. I’m not only a personal advocate for the arts but an advocate for the arts in special needs programs.

We, as teachers, are here for the students, and whatever can benefit the students is what’s most important. My kids are changing in front of my eyes because of what I’ve learned through this residency program. Because I gave it a chance and put in a little extra planning time, I have arts-integrated activities that keep my students engaged and entertained while they are learning.

To other teachers: Give it a try and you won’t regret it.

This program was provided under a contract with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Learn more about Young Audiences early learning programs here.