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.
Youth in Art’s year-long visual arts residency at Coleman Elementary School concluded with a successful campus-wide exhibition as part of the school’s Open House event in June, 2019. Mentor Artist Julia James installed artworks from all grade levels in campus windows, doorways, classrooms, and throughout the art room in order to show the impressive breadth and depth of work that students had accomplished throughout the year. Featured projects included explorations in water and ink, fantastical treehouse landscapes, Matisse-inspired silhouettes, hand-sewn sketchbooks, still life observational drawings, and much more!
Students and their friends and families stopped by throughout the night to view the exhibition, locate their artwork, and speak with Ms. Julia to learn more about the types of projects and skills students acquired throughout the year. Over four-hundred people were in attendance, discussing art techniques that were learned and narratives behind the artworks. Students shared what they enjoyed most, what they struggled with, and their intentions behind their artistic choices. At the end of the night, many students were able to bring their artworks home for their families to enjoy.
Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Shahrzad Khorsandi worked with 2nd grade students at Cornell Elementary School in Albany for the 3rd year in a row through Youth in Arts’ Artists in Schools program, introducing students to Persian culture through the music and dance of regions across Iran.
We began with a discussion on the geography of the Middle East and Iran, introducing students to each area with a sample of different folk dances from the various regions of the country. The first class ended with everyone learning how to do the two-handed Persian snap (always a favorite and a challenge both for the students and teachers), which we could use throughout the residency to cheer for our peers.
Throughout the eight-week residency, each of the 4 classes learned a dance specific to a region of Iran. In the process, we learned about rhythm and patterns of movement, linking our sessions to and shape-making and understanding lines through our bodies. We then turned these shapes and lines into spatial patterns on the dance floor. Each class also worked in small groups to create their own movement patterns that they would do in a section of the choreography. This process gave the kids the opportunity to do problem solving and work on social skills, and allowed for the development of their own creative expression.
The residency ended in a culminating student performance with costumes/accessories. The parents were invited and all four classes got a chance to see each other perform, with almost 200 family members and supporters of all ages participating as audience members. During the culminating student performance, Shahrzad shares: “We worked for weeks on traditional dance moves from across Persia. Today you will see mix of some of those traditional moves and also some contemporary moves that the students created all on their own. This mix of old and new is part of the show today. In traditional Persian dance all the females would be in long skirts, in today’s show everybody dresses in any way they want and everyone is celebrated. They learned to dance in groups and to collaborate.”
Shahrzad describes working with kids as a job that is rewarding and fulfilling. She remembers one particularly special moment at the end of this residency when a student who had been crying and frustrated the day before the performance because he thought the performance was going to be a “failure”, ran to her after the show and hugged her, smiling, saying, “We did a great job!” Later, as Shahrzad was reading the colorful Thank-you notes/drawings from the kids, she saw the drawing from that same student and cried. Below is the drawing.
Youth in Arts joined the Marin County Office of Education and a team of STEM educators and experts to conduct a week-long professional development workshop on STEAM learning for more than 60 teachers in Novato, CA. The program was dedicated to considering how the environment impacts people and how people impact the environment, asking K-12 teachers from across Marin County to rethink how they might teach the California Environmental Principles and Concepts to their students in innovative and interdisciplinary ways.
Utilizing a culturally responsive framework to consider the diverse ways in which our students learn, we considered how to address global issues such as climate change through a local lens using place-based inquiry and problem solving. The week-long training event began with participants experiencing STEAM as learners, taking part in a Phenomena Walk that involved finding and drawing an intersection between nature and something human-made and employing discussion-based reflection frameworks like Visual Thinking Strategies to break down the meaning of the Environmental Principles and Concepts.
We then examined sea level rise and ways to make meaningful change through a case study of the Canal in San Rafael, and used the Engineering Design Cycle to plan out how to take this case study and apply it. Building on this process, we used resources from the Davidson Middle School’s Makerspace to think creatively and prototype solutions to issues such as reducing plastic consumption and designing structures for desalinization. Throughout the institute, participants learned ways to use art collaboratively in the classroom, from techniques such as theatre-based presentations to a Making Learning Visible wall that showed how to document the process of learning through photographs, words and art.
Participants were encouraged to create a cross-disciplinary framework meant to empower students to ask questions and become advocates in their communities. If teachers support students in becoming leaders, they in turn can design solutions to care for the environment. “The impact of humans on the environment is something we can’t ignore, and young people are already leading the way toward finding solutions,” said Executive Director Miko Lee. “This was an important collaboration to help teachers reach all learners through multiple methods.”
Lee was one of the keynote speakers of day one focused on Cultural Responsive Teaching. On the second day students from the Sunrise Movement spoke about getting the Green New Deal passed in Marin. On day three, artist and activist Favianna Rodriguez, who talked about the importance of looking for stories that allow students to create a future of possibility. She also showed a map of the Bay Area and noted how poorer areas bear the brunt of pollution. Encourage students to examine their own community, she said, and document what is represented – and what is not. On day four former Youth in Arts Director Nydia Algazzali Gonzalez spoke about the importance of interdisciplinary learning. To watch the keynote speeches, please visit the Marin County Office of Education.
The final two days included time for curriculum planning. A cohort of 18 teachers returned on Sunday to gear up for Summer School. Those summer school teachers, will receive mentoring from Agency By Design whose Executive Director is Brooke Toczylowski, former YIA staff artist.
Mishka Banuri is a 17-year-old from Utah who helped craft and pass the Utah Climate Resolution, the first of its kind in a traditionally conservative state. Here is a video made by the Brower Awards.
Mari Copeny, also known as Little Miss Flint, has been the 11-year-old activist about the Flint Michigan water crisis. Here is an article/video of her in Teen Vogue.
Jamie Margolin is a 16-year-old Seattle teen who founded Zero Hour, a youth led climate change movement. Here is Jamie’s TEDX talk. Each of the teens in Zero Hour represent a different perspective and part of the United States. More about the team in the NYTimes here and also here in the New Yorker.
Jade Sweeney is an 18-year-old from North Carolina who is combatting Colony Collapse Disorder and addressing bee conservation by introducing apiaries and pollinator parks in her local schools. Here is a video made by the Brower Awards.
Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh is a teen Indigenous environmental activist who sued the U.S. government over the issue of climate change. He is also a spoken word artist. Here is a vice video (FYI swearing involved). Here is his talk to the United Nations.
Greta Thunberg is a teen Swedish climate change activist who lead the international student strike. Here is Greta’s TED talk. Here is the Brave video about her leading the movement.
Rose Whipple is a 17-year-old from Minnesota who is fighting the Pipeline, which is proposed to go through Minnesota and indigenous territories and will threaten the way of life of the Anishinaabe and Dakota people. Here is a video made by the Brower Awards.Kaiya Yonamine, an Okinawan-American 17-year-old created “Our Islands Treasure” video about the building of another U.S. military base that is polluting the ocean. Watch the 3-minute trailer here. There’s also a 20-minute documentary with some subtitles.
Brower Awards – Go here for video profiles from Earth Island Institute’s Brower Youth Award for Environmental Leadership. Many, many excellent youth activists from across North America and covering a variety of environmental issues.
Climate Woke!/CultureStrike Project discussed by artist Favianna Rodriguez links climate change to racial injustice. Climate Woke video.
Water Protectors – Here is a teacher’s guide (with lessons, videos, stakeholders) on Dakota Access Pipeline protesters -– the Standing Rock Water Protectors (many of the leaders are youth).
Laurel Dell 5th graders spent a few days happily painting one of San Rafael’s utility boxes as part of the “emPower Utility Art Box” project. If you’re heading to the 101 freeway, you’ll see the box at Second Street and Lincoln Avenue on the right side.
This spring, the students participated in a 12-week residency program that was a unique collaboration between Youth in Arts and UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN. The program featured local architects Shirl Buss and Janine Lovejoy Wilford and artists working with 4th and 5th grade students teaching design and build concepts. Students created bridges, towers and maps looking at important issues facing San Rafael, such as climate change, affordable housing and access to the Canal community.
“It’s great that the students were so engaged in the work, ” said Mentor Artist Suzanne Joyal. “They really wanted people to think seriously about San Rafael’s 2040 plan and what the city needs for the future.”
To paint the utility box, a small group of 5th graders worked with Joyal and Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. In selecting the design and color, it was important to consider how different colors make us feel. Students practiced writing their important words big so they would be visible. Despite the heat, the painting was fun! We didn’t blend colors completely to maintain a painterly effect. We added floating houses, trees, birds and clouds. When we were done painting, we added more detail and pattern using paint markers. It is an important visual reminder of what we all need to be thinking about.
The grand unveiling of the six boxes that were painted will be held on June 14 in conjunction with the 2nd Fridays Art Walk from 5 to 8 p.m. The boxes are located in the city’s downtown corridor and transit center.
The 2019 San Rafael Leadership Institute started the utility box project as a way to bring more art to downtown San Rafael. The institute is a San Rafael Chamber of Commerce program made up of public and private professionals, nonprofit leaders and business officials.
Youth in Arts kicked off an exciting semester of school-wide events at Olive Elementary School with two amazing days of dance and culture through our assembly and workshop program. Capoeira Mentor Artist Daniel Mattar and his International Capoeira Angola Foundation (ICAF) troupe spent a day with Olive Elementary School’s 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students in early March, and Shahrzad Khorsandi and the Shahrzad Dance Ensemble led a fun and informative day of programming in April. In sharing the art of Capoeira with the students at Olive, Daniel and two additional Capoeira artists began by playing music on their hand-made Berimbaus made of gourds and one string, and a Pandeiros (tambourine) while engaging students in call and response songs in Portuguese. After their demonstration, they brought several kids up on stage to practice Capoeira while practicing their call and response songs.
Following the performance and demonstration, each 3rd-5th grade class participated in an interactive workshop led by Daniel and ICAF. We began with mastering the key movements and control necessary to take part in capoeira safely. Some of the movements that we learned were: Ginga, Aú, Balança, Macaco, and Negativa. We then put our new knowledge to use with team exercises and some games of capoeira with a partner!
During the second assembly with the Shahrzad Dance Ensemble, director Shahrzad Khorsandi and three 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. 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”).
Following the performance, participating classrooms returned for a hands-on workshop with Shahrzad. During the workshop, Sharhzad began by showing a map of the middle east in order to find Iran and talk about the geography of Iran/Persia and how this geography has affected the music and dances of each region. We then started with movements from Luristan in West Iran, followed by movements from Azerbaijan in Northwest Iran. During a brief break we learned the Beshkan, a one-handed Persian snap that creates a sound similar to snapping your fingers but much louder! After the break, we engaged in dance from the Bandar region near the Persian Gulf in Southern Iran and a Persian urban/social dance from Tehran, the capital, using contemporary Persian pop music. The students took turns coming out in the middle of the circle, 2 or 3 at a time, and practiced what they had learned throughout the day.
Youth in Arts is grateful for the collaboration of Principal Olynik, Olive Elementary’s exemplary 3rd-5th grade teachers, and the PTA for making these programs possible!
Friends come in all shapes and sizes!
“Imagining Friendship” is at the YIA Gallery in San Rafael through May 24. The show features the colorful self portraits by kindergarteners and first graders at Laurel Dell Elementary School. The work was part of a residency this Fall with Youth in Arts’ mentor artists Suzanne Joyal and Cathy Bowman.
The Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts exhibition is now in its fifth year. The show celebrates the life of 5-year-old Walker Rezaian and his love of the arts. The show is part of a program funded by the Rezaian family.
“This is an exciting show that celebrates friendship in all its forms,” said Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Miko Lee. “The exhibition also features a wonderful cardboard for exploring. The exhibit shows families that art can be made from anything.”
As a backdrop for the show, Joyal and Bowman built a kid-sized, interactive cardboard world with tunnels to crawl through and doors to open. There are windows to look in and out of and a cardboard word game to encourage visitors to read and write. The show also features a giant word tower made from cardboard boxes inspired by the work of artist Corita Kent. The cardboard was generously donated by Sunrise Home.
Youth in Arts is also excited to announce the opening of its new ART LAB, housed in the YIA store. The ART LAB is open during regular Youth in Arts’ hours, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
As part of a year-long residency with Mentor Artist Julia James, Coleman Elementary School hosted its first Family Art Night with Youth in Arts in March! It was a full house with Ms. Julia’s students and their families filling up the multipurpose room to create and share together. The fun began with Executive Director Miko Lee leading a collaborative sound-making activity in which everyone worked together to create the sounds of rain. With over 180 people in attendance, it was quite the storm! After warming up, participants engaged in an embodied exploration of shape and line with family and friends. Working together, we practiced making squares, triangles, circles, and quadrilaterals with our arms, legs, and bodies. Some chose to make their shapes big and organic with a large group of people, and others chose to make smaller shapes that could be easily recognized. After practicing and sharing what shapes and lines could look like, we were ready to start working on our visual arts project!
The project of the night was “Birds of the World”, a community mural in which we created birds that represented who we are as individuals and added it to a collaborative background. In designing our birds, students and their families and friends were asked to come up with three adjectives to describe themselves. We chose words about our emotional capacities like “kind”, or “brave”, as well as words about our skills and interests, like “sporty”and “creative”. Once we had determined what words described ourselves best, we visually transformed those three words into lines, shapes, and colors.
We then used our new lines, shapes, and colors as creative building blocks to draw a bird. Ms. Julia led families through the wax resist technique, adding watercolor over the oil pastel on our drawings to create interesting effects. Once our birds were complete, we cut them out and added them to a large community mural where they could take flight together! Throughout the night, Coleman fourth and fifth graders who had participated in a docent training activity the day before also helped to lead the activities. From helping facilitators to translate directions from English to Spanish to passing out materials and helping their peers ideate during the creation process, our upper grade-level art assistants made the night a success. Once all of the birds were cut out, the art assistants designed the layout of the mural and helped their families, friends, and fellow Coleman Tigers put it together.
Thank you to Principle Taylor and the wonderful Coleman PTO for making this event possible, and stay tuned for more awesome artwork from Coleman Elementary’s talented students!
Pre-K students in the Ready, Set, Grow! program at Rancho Elementary School explored various tools while painting to music. Part of a sensory-rich arts experience for students with Youth in Arts’ Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, this 10-week Rancho residency is part of the Arts Unite Us program.
Cathy says of her classes: “Recently, we painted to different pieces of music. We talked about how different music makes our bodies feel different things. First, we listened to “Gymnopedie No. 1” by Erik Satie. Then we listened to a lively bit of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag.” Finally, we heard Duke Ellington play. It was fun to try different things to paint with, from creamy crayons to toothbrushes dipped in tempera paint. How does a sponge make marks differently from a roller? We used two colors of paint, pink and yellow-green, to explore mark making on sturdy mat board generous”.
Through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) Grant that Marin County Office of Education received, we are in multiple Special Day Classrooms. This residency is one of the programs that have benefitted from this collaboration.
Kumu Hula Shawna Alapa’i and Halau Hula Na Pua O Ka La’akea performed for students from the Bolinas-Stinson Union School District at the Dance Palace Community & Cultural Center in Point Reyes. Spanning traditional Kahiko (ancient) hula to modern (‘auana) hula, students experienced Hawai’ian story-telling through melody, hand-crafted instruments, dress, and dance traditions.
The assembly concluded with a fun hands-on workshop where students learned parts of a Haka, a traditional warrior’s dance originating with the Maori people and adopted into Hawai’ian culture. Kumu Hula Shawna incorporated aspects of the Haka into a hula danced to the music from Moana as a way to engage students and connect culturally based on common knowledges.
A special thank you to the Dance Palace Community & Cultural Center and the California Arts Council for their support of this program!
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