Posts Tagged ‘K-6’

Celebrate Arts Education Month (Here’s how)

March 10, 2011

Assembly Concurrent Resolution 25 (Campos) declares “March 2011 to be Arts Education Month and encourage[s] all elected officials to participate with their educational communities in celebrating the arts.”

There’s no better way to share the power of arts education with elected officials than by inviting them to experience firsthand the creativity, innovation and joy that happen in arts classrooms. The Alliance’s Arts Learning in Action Toolkit provides a step-by-step online guide for planning a visit for a local school board member, mayor, city council, county board of education or county supervisors.

Finding the Words for Duke Ellington

We spoke to award-winning teacher Genein Letford and she shared a lesson that brings to life the tenets of ACR 25 with ”a visual and performing arts curriculum [that] addresses and develops ways of thinking, questioning, expression.”

Once a third grade general education teacher, Letford is in charge of the music program at NEW Academy Canoga Park. “My goal has been to develop a program that teaches music standards, theory and instrumentation while successfully connecting to other disciplines for whole child learning.”

Her lesson on Duke Ellington brings jazz, improvisation and African American history to life. It charts Duke’s rise from piano player in pool halls to leader of an orchestra headlining at Carnegie Hall, where he introduced Black, Brown and Beige, a suite that celebrated the “the triumphs of black people, from the days of slavery to the years of the civil rights struggle.”

Letford’s lesson is also an exploration of language. “I use Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra for its wonderful similes to convey the color tones of the instruments and the mood of the music. Along with developing listening skills (students identify instruments and instrument families), the students pay attention to how the authors use language to describe the music. Then the students practice writing similes of their own to describe the music.”

Art isn’t Just for Art Classes Anymore

You don’t have to be an art teacher to celebrate the power of arts learning this month. Assemblywoman Campos’ resolution affirms that a “visual and performing arts curriculum addresses and develops ways of thinking, questioning, expression, and learning that complement learning in other core subjects.” There is a growing interest in cross-curricular learning. The Kennedy Center defines arts integration as:

“An approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form and another subject area meeting objectives in both.”

Last week, we witnessed an exciting example at the Armory for the Arts in Pasadena, when they shared findings from their new curriculum, which integrates visual art and math. The curriculum develops the connections between math and art focusing on math standards, providing visual art lessons and standards-based instruction to complement and enhance the math learning. Assessments after one semester show a sharp rise in post-test skills, as well as improved scores on standardized tests. Stay tuned for more information about this exciting initiative.

Let the Celebrations Begin

Help us spread the word about Arts Education Month, share our new video, Start a Conversation About the Arts. It links to our Arts Learning in Action toolkit and makes a persuasive case (complete with music from Ozomatli) for advocates to reach out to elected officials.

Genein Letford is an elementary music teacher from Canoga Park and believes that every child, despite socioeconomic status, deserves a quality education that includes the arts. Mrs. Letford began her teaching career as a third grade teacher of low-income English language learners. It was there she discovered the power of using music to help teach vocabulary and academic concepts to her students.

Mrs. Letford is now the music director at the same elementary school and has created a dynamic award winning music curriculum that not only teaches music standards but also incorporates corresponding math, science, language arts and social studies concepts. In 2009, Letford began the Music For All: Instrument Scholarship Fund, which awarded low-income students with instruments for their ongoing music education. Early last year, Letford was a finalist for the Bravo Arts Educator Award and was just named the 2010 Great American Teacher of the Year. Mrs. Letford received her bachelor degree from UCLA and recently completed her master thesis, Integration With Integrity: The Importance of Keeping Music in the Elementary Classroom at California State University, Northridge. She has done numerous professional presentations on this topic and remains focused on bringing arts education to underserved communities.

Are Public-Private Partnerships the Way Forward?

February 4, 2010

In recent years, the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) has put together an innovative program called My Masterpieces: Discovering Art in My Community, which capitalizes on local art institutions through field trips and specifically co-designed K-6 visual art curriculum. With California facing a fiscal meltdown and harrowing cycles of budget cuts, we wondered if these kinds of public-private models offer a viable way to build sustainable arts education programs. We spoke with Marshall Ayers, the Arts Education Coordinator for the district, to learn more.

Alliance: Were there existing relationships with local art institutions before the partnership?

MA: There were long-standing relationships with many of the local institutions. But the programs varied from school to school, depending on if there was a strong interest among parents or an individual principal. We had students accessing some cultural institutions, but it was in a more or less random manner. We hoped curriculum based partnerships could address issues of equity and access.

Alliance: How did the partnerships get started?

MA: At a recent training for arts coordinators, evaluator Lynn Waldorf said, “When you don’t have money, it’s a good time to plan.” And that really proved to be true for us.

It began with the launch for the Arts for All initiative. PUSD became an Arts for all District in 2004 and that started the process of developing our arts plan as well as a district arts team and a community arts team. At the same time, the city was undergoing a cultural strategic planning process. That meant most of those arts partners were already around our table. Later, when block grant funds or other private funding became available, we were ready with a plan.

Alliance: How did having all those entities involved affect the planning process?

MA: I think it really helped to have all the stakeholders at the table. We began with a feasibility study prepared by the senior author on the project Jennifer Olson. The study looked at how this community could provide field trips embedded in curricular connections using the cultural resources that were already here. There was talk about a unique Pasadena curriculum because of the collections here in the city. We tried to capitalize on what we saw as permanent fixtures.

Previously, art institutions had been trying to build relationships and programs with the school district with varying degrees of success Now they were around a table with PUSD teachers who knew the core content standards, and could say ‘Here’s how this could work for us.”

Alliance: Can you give an example?

MA: Well, we are an Open Court district and in second grade one of the unit themes is “Heroes.” So we bring 2nd grade to City Hall where they take part in a public art walking tour that includes the Pasadena Robinson Memorial. It just made sense to for teachers who are already studying heroes, who may already be using Jackie and Mack Robinson in their lessons, to do a classroom art lesson where students then create their own sculptural hero portraits. The next time they drive by those sculptures, those 2nd graders are really going to remember that lesson.

Alliance: What were some of the ideas that came from local institutions?

MA: Museum educators were interested in return visits, so we built free family passes into the program. They appreciated that it’s about civic engagement and audience development. The idea that starting in kindergarten, PUSD students’ feet would have passed through each one of these institutions by the time they finished 6th grade. It’s a win win.

Another need we identified was for museum staff to be educated about who our students are, so they can think about how to work with specific school populations. Together, we identified the places where their institution might already be aligned with certain ages and grades. Instead of trying to serve every grade level programmatically, we suggested that perhaps institutions could adopt an entire single grade level – taking a horizontal rather than vertical approach.

Alliance: As you’ve mentioned Pasadena has such amazing cultural resources. Do you think the program can be applied in other districts?

MA: It’s hard to say because we designed it specifically for this community. But I think most communities have individual artists, or assets or people or places that they could, if they looked at it through this lens, build a similar kind of curriculum. It might not be around visual art, it might be around music, dance or theater. This model could also apply to other subject matters like science or math. The important thing is to play to your strengths.

For more information about the PUSD programclick here

*Ed. note: In 2004, the Alliance guided the development of the district wide arts plan in Pasadena Unified utilizing our Insider’s Guide to Arts Education Planning