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STEAM at Davidson

Activating learning through arts, making, and engineering activities:

by Crystal Barr, Agency by Design Oakland

During my time as the arts-integration mentor at ATLAS Davidson summer program, youth engaged in a myriad of making and arts activities to deepen their access and resonance with the content they were exploring. In the sixth grade classes, young makers explored the importance of watersheds and movement of water by observing how water moves within a flow table and then making a plaster cast of the table as a microcosm of how water flows over valleys and hills.

Seventh grade youth used their learning about water pollution to educate and advocate for access to clean water, creating original zines with drawings and text about how to create and use water filters to clean water and why we must act now to save our water sources.

The eighth graders took it another step further and asked themselves how they could reduce their dependence on plastics as consumers, and then made their original products such as lip balm, toothpaste, soda, and beeswax wrap and reused a glass container to place their new product in. Youth were asked to create a logo or ad for their product as well as a zine* that would describe the process of making their product and how this process is sustainable for the environment. I was excited to see youth creatively engaged in issues of water conservation and pollution, and seeing their ideas for collective change.

*Zines, short for magazine, are small, hand made, informational booklets that are accessible to make.

 

 

Thank you to the California Department of Education, Marin County Office of Education and the Marin Community Foundation for helping to make this program happen.

Exploring Patterns

Patterns were the focus of art with a 3rd through 5th grade class at Lynwood Elementary School during a residency with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. We began with texture quilts, using shapes and gold foil. Then we made numbers 0 to 9 using large stencils, oil pastels and watercolor. This was a collaborative project inspired by artist Jasper Johns’ number paintings.

With clay, we practiced patterns using beads. Then we explored tints (adding white to a color) and shades (adding black to a color). We made cityscapes, starting with red or blue paint and using the San Francisco skyline as our inspiration. Some of us included shapes from cities we have visited around the world.

Observational drawing is key. We practiced looking closely to record what we see, using animal toys as models. We made self portraits using metallic Sharpies. We chose five adjectives to describe ourselves, then turned each word into a different line. Our final weeks were spent practicing print making and color mixing, again exploring pattern.

Each end-of-class reflection was an opportunity to practice talking in front of the class and listening closely when our friends talked. Students came up with thoughtful observations to share and asked excellent questions.

At Youth in Arts, scaffolding is important. With each lesson, we build on previously learned skills to foster creativity, compassion and confidence in all learners.

Through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant that the Marin County Office of Education received, Youth in Arts was in multiple Special Day Classes this spring.

 

Gesture Drawing

At Olive and San Ramon elementary schools, Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman taught gesture drawing to 3rd through 5th graders.

We started by standing up and drawing in the air with our finger and discussed how it felt to work “big.” Demonstrating with a student as a model, Ms. Bowman demonstrated how to capture the essence of the figure in a 30-second pose. Every student with an interest in selecting a pose got a turn, while the rest of the class worked quickly to capture their efforts. Models were able to explore what makes an interesting pose by choosing how to extend their arms and legs. As artists we learned to work fast, letting our intuition take charge. We practiced drawing the shapes, forms and lines of the body.

Gesture drawing was a great follow up to blind contour drawing and working small. It was hard at first to use the whole paper and resist the temptation to add details like eyes, ears and glasses but we did. When we finished, we had a thoughtful discussion about the process.

Through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) Grant that Marin County Office of Education received, Youth in Arts was in multiple Special Day Classrooms this spring.

Vocal Music in Arts Unite Us Classrooms

Youth in Arts Mentor Artist and vocal musician Stevie Greenwell taught multiple classes for Arts Unite Us this Spring.  She says of her experience: “As I reflect back on my time with both Vallecito and Grant Grover, I can’t help but smile. Working with these students has been a balance of thoughtful preparation, on-the-spot creative solutions, writing personalized and interactive songs, instrument creation, and true presence… It taught me how to slow down my pace, speak thoughtfully, and honor and acknowledge all the small components of engagement. Each time a student made eye contact, responded with their choice, shared their voice, played their instrument; it mattered. Every time a student stood in front of the class or lead a rhythm; it mattered. Every time a student responded and reacted to the sound of their name in a song; it mattered. And all these parts came together to create a lively and joyful classroom each week.” 

In order to make her lessons accessible for each of her students, Stevie found herself creating songs specifically for those classrooms. She adds, “My Favorite song that came out of these sessions, I wrote on my way to Vallecito one morning. I was asking myself questions around how I could meet students where they are and inspire the next step. I was thinking about how much hearing their own names mattered and how much the lyrics of a song can reinforce thought. It is a simple song with sweet words that now often gets stuck in my head and always makes me smile and reminds me of how strong these students are. The lyrics are:

(Name subbed for each student) “Andrew is wonderful, Andrew is kind, Andrew is strong and has a great mind, but most of all Andrew, we like you just the way you are, yes most of all Andrew we like you just the way you are.” 

During her time at Grant Grover with junior college students, they worked on various skills that are needed to make music together in addition to singing. Stevie explains, “My favorite activities that came out of these sessions was having students learn conducting gestures and take turns conducting the class. They would guide the class on when to start playing their instruments, lead dynamics and volume levels, show tempo changes, and then strongly cut off sections of the class or the whole class together.” At the end of the residency, Grant Grover students shared a heartfelt thank-you to Stevie for all they had learned together. 

 

Stevie says of her experience: :The biggest gift I continue to receive is how I feel when I leave the classroom. No matter how I entered, what was happening in the classroom for the students, or any other outside factors, I could feel the room transform. I left filled with such joy, inspiration, and delight. It is a testament and reminder of the magic that happens when we come together, connect, and create.” 

Persian Dance at Davidson Middle School

Youth in Arts was excited to offer two assemblies supported by funding from the California Arts Council to Davidson Middle School this Spring, tying into core learning goals for 6th – 8th grade Social Studies with arts integration techniques. For this program the Shahrzad Dance Ensemble, Director Shahrzad Khorsandi and four members of the ensemble, performed a special series of dances for the Persian New Year that had been choreographed and designed by Shahrzad over the last several years. Norouz (“New Day”), the Persian New Year, represents new beginnings, rebirth, and renewal. Shahrzad Dance Company’s Norouz program for 2019, Symbols of Love, brought into focus the true meaning behind this celebrated event and gave students the opportunity to learn about the music, traditions, and cultural relevance of the Iranian holiday today. The performance began with students learning several Persian Dance movements, such as Shokufeh (Blossom), where the dancer starts out with their arms at their sides, and then brings them up over head and back out to side palms up (like a blossom).

Students were also invited to participate in a modified rendition of the fire jumping tradition which is part of the Norouz celebration. Shahrzad explained that traditionally we will jump over fires, saying in Persian ” I give my yellow to you, you give your red to me”. This indicates a throwing away of sorrow, pain , suffering, anger and illnesses into the fire (yellow), in order to burn it and receive positive energy (red) from the fire.

Throughout the performance, dancers portrayed dynamic characteristics associated with the symbols of: Sabzeh (“Sprout”) which is symbolic for rebirth, Seeb (“Apple”) which is a symbol of health, Samanu (“Wheat Pudding”) which is a symbol of sweetness, Sekkeh (“Coins”) which is a symbol of wealth and prosperity, and Norouz (“New Day”).

These assemblies followed a three day cultural immersion series led by Shahrzad with participating classrooms in Fall 2018. During these workshops, Sharhzad sharing the geographical significance of the many regions in Iran/Persia, and how where each region is located within the country and what they are bordered by has affected the music and dance which can be found there. Students also learned about other types of Persian culture, such as the food, holidays, and traditions that are important to people across the country.

 

Youth in Arts would like to provide a special thank you to the California Arts Council for their support of this program!

 

 

Drawing Each Other

Students at Sinaloa Middle School in Novato practiced drawing each other during a recent residency with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman.

The drawing exercise continued building skills from the previous week, where students made blind contour drawings of animal toys.  On this day, students split off in partners and practiced drawing each other without looking at their pens.

It’s always tempting to look! To help, students used a paper plate with a hole in the middle to hide their pens. After drawing each other, we looked at all of the work and discussed the process. Reflecting on our work was an important part of understanding what we did. For the artists, the exercise was good practice in not judging a final drawing as good or bad but instead, appreciating the journey. It made everyone think about focusing on practice, not result.

Through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant that the Marin County Office of Education received, Youth in Arts was in multiple Special Day Classes this spring.

Short School Students Build Towers

 

Free field trips are one of the many programs that Youth in Arts offers! Recently, Short School students from Ms. Katie Marek’s class visited us to see Architects in Schools: Designing Community, the exhibition on display at the YIA Gallery through July 26. The show features the work of Laurel Dell 4th and 5th graders and their response to climate change, housing shortages and other critical issues San Rafael faces now and in the future.

Short School students studied the towers and models that Laurel Dell students made, paying close attention to the detailed bridges they built. We then built our own towers out of foam core board scraps, starting with three words that describe us. We came up with several words, such as smart, funny, careful and goodness. We wrote each word on a circle and then used special glue and toothpicks to build our towers. It was tricky to get them to balance and stand up but we persevered. One artist made a piece inspired by the San Francisco skyline, and another built a unicorn.

Ms. Marek’s class was part of Youth in Arts’ Arts Unite Us program. This spring, her students explored visual art through a 10-week residency program with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman.

Through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant that the Marin County Office of Education received, Youth in Arts was in multiple Special Day Classes this spring.

 

Arts Unite Us at San Marin High

Lisa Summers, a teaching poet and artist, worked with two special day classes at San Marin High School through our Arts Unite Us program to create work representing “spirit animals.” In Brian Khoury’s class, students practiced observational drawing skills including gestural drawings, calligraphic imagery using handmade bamboo pens and inks, and learned to make patterns. After sewing lessons, students cut out spirit animals in felt, sewed and stuffed them, then displayed sketches, patterns, and sewn animals in the front office of the school.

 

Lisa explored the idea of a spirit animal with Steve Lamott’s class while they were reading Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya. In the novel, the curandera Ultima arrives with her spirit animal, the owl. Students considered what their protective spirit animal might be through lessons that ranged from gestural drawing to pen and ink to a group portrait project. In the second half of the residency, students prepared sketches for a triptych that displayed their spirit animal and elements of their “interior world” including landscapes, colors, and symbols that hold meaning for each of them. Students prepared and mixed colors, used collage techniques, and learned to transfer elements of their original sketches to the panels.

Lisa says, “I learned so much from working with Brian and Steve’s students about process, and the relationship between creative exploration and identity development. Brian’s students especially loved sharing their work with teachers and other San Marin students.” Selected works will be on display at Youth In Arts during the July exhibition.

 

Through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant that the Marin County Office of Education received, Youth in Arts was in multiple Special Day Classes this spring.

 

Eddie Madril at Hamilton Middle School

This Spring, Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Eddie Madril brought the music, arts and culture of Native American dance to Hamilton Middle School. Part of the Pascua Yaqui tribe of Southern Arizona and Northern Sonora Mexico and active member of the Native American community, Eddie represents his culture as a dancer, singer, teacher, playwright and filmmaker and brings these skills with him to every school site he visits.

During his time at Hamilton, Eddie shared singing and dance with students as part of a special assembly to 6th through 8th grade students. Teachers were able to tie the curriculum to core Social Studies learning goals and valued the opportunity as much as their students did. Throughout the performance, Eddie explained the origins of movements in each dance, contextualized Native American History and the ongoing effects that state and national laws and regulations have on the 567 federally recognized tribes throughout the country, and offered a new perspective on the narratives we’re taught in school.

Following the assembly, Eddie visited the school’s two eighth grade classrooms to share more about his work. Students were given the opportunity to pose questions as a follow-up to some of the facts and experiences that Eddie shared during the performance, and participate in a hands-on workshop. During the workshop students, teachers, and school administrators were invited to learn different techniques for working with hoops. While demonstrating and guiding participants through the movements, Eddie shared important facts regarding how and why Hoop Dancing is an integral part of his Native experience, and the potential meanings that the symbol of the hoop encompasses.

 

Youth in Arts would like to provide a special thank you to the California Arts Council for their support of this program!

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Youth in Arts at the Marin County Fair

 

Youth in Arts’ award-winning a cappella group, ‘Til Dawn, sang to an enthusiastic crowd on the opening day of the Marin County Fair this summer. The group is the longest running year-round teen ensemble in the Bay Area. It was the last public performance for the group’s outgoing seniors (Kathryn Hasson, Angel Gregorian, Maud Utstein and Will Noyce) as well as ‘Til Dawn member Lara Burgert, who is moving. The ensemble is directed by singer-songwriter Austin Willacy, who performs as a solo artist and also with his own a cappella band, The House Jacks.

Four collaborative works created during Youth in Arts’ residencies this spring took home top ribbons. The mixed media work, inspired by artist Jasper Johns, was created during a 10-week Arts Unite Us program with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman.

Student projects from San Ramon Elementary School and Willow Creek Academy won blue ribbons in their age division. Novato High School and Sinaloa Middle School classes each won second place in their age divisions. The San Ramon piece also won the Anne Davis award for best of class (collage) in the 9-12 year-old group.

“Each class created richly layered works that were different from each other,” Bowman said. “It was a privilege to work with such dedicated artists.”

Bowman also won the Charles M. Schulz award for a pig cartoon and a blue ribbon for a second cartoon.

The prize-winning student art will be on display at Youth In Arts as part of “Outside the Lines: Collaborative Art in Special Day Classrooms.” The exhibit opens July 31.

Through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant that the Marin County Office of Education received, Youth in Arts was in multiple Special Day Classes this spring.

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