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Weaving and Printmaking at Oak Hill

by Mentor Artist Gabrielle Gamboa

The young artists I have been working with at Oak Hill, a school for students with Autism and other learning differences, have been learning weaving and printmaking techniques with our last few sessions of the year.

Student work in progress.

Student work in progress.

Student weaving.

Student weaving.

A finished student weaving.

A finished student weaving.

Each student had a small personal loom. I brought a selection of richly textures yarn for students to chose from to weave bold patterns. We finished the weavings off with tassels we made, and mounted the weavings on sticks gathered on a walk. Weaving was just one option for the older group of students. Some chose to finish previous art projects.

One student weaves, another finishes a kaleidocycle, and a third sketches a personal logo.

One student weaves, another finishes a kaleidocycle, and a third sketches a personal logo.

A student draws a pattern on a kaleidocycle.

A student draws a pattern on a kaleidocycle.

The next group of projects involved printmaking. First we rolled ink on sheets of acrylic to make monotypes. We drew on some of our paper with oil pastel before printing for a layered result. Next, we made simple block prints, drawing on foam scratch sheets to make printing plates. We printed on top of some of our monotypes for more texture. The final project for the younger students was to combine both types of printing into a monoprint. They had developed strong printmaking skills by this time, and made bold color choices! The older students branched out even more for their final project, silkscreen printing. They made abstract designs using tape stencils, and made runs of colorful prints on beautiful Japanese printmaking paper.

Student printmaking.

Student printmaking.

Student monotype prints.

Student monotype prints.

Student monotypes and mono prints.

Student monotypes and mono prints.

Student monotypes and monoprints.

Student monotypes and monoprints.

Student pulling a screen print.

Student pulling a screen print.

I had a great semester at Oak Hill, and I am going to miss these dynamic young artists very much!

VSA Percussion at Venetia Valley

Enjoy this blog written by YIA Mentor Artist William Rossel about his recent residency in Erin Muldoon’s class at Venetia Valley Elementary School:

I have been very lucky to work with the students in Erin Muldoon’s class for 3 years now. We have been using music and percussion to reach some important goals, including communication skills and fine motor control, and I am proud to say all of the students have made great gains. Some of the goals that we’ve been working towards have been being able to reach and touch the musical icons on a schedule, or to hold onto mallets for drum-play. Other goals include being able to verbalize wants, or when that’s not possible to communicate through other means. For example, I ask each student to help me come up with a rhythm by choosing long or short notes and they have to annunciate which notes they’d like. We’ve made huge progress on both of these fronts (fine motor and verbal communication) with all of the students. It’s been really exciting to see.

Our typical musical exercises include beat counting/playing, call-and-response (i.e. taking turns), making/playing basic long-short patterns, jamming, and playing to recorded music. This last exercise is one of the most fun. Each week, I ask one student to share with us a musical artist that they like (Erin and the staff have it all down, playlists and everything) and we play their music and accompany it with our drums. It is super fun and it gives the students a chance to try to verbalize their wants and to participate in making music with their favorite artists.

In this school we had a great culminating event where we invited parents and other students to come watch what we do. It was a huge success and I’m so grateful that one of the moms loved it so much and saw the value of what we are doing that she funded another 5 sessions herself. So cool!

I am also so grateful to Erin and all of her staff which have always been nothing less than amazing! Looking forward to more!

YIA Mentor Artist William Rossel

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Young Artists Spring Into Action

group 6 girls

Marina Middle Schoolers ready for summer!

Spring is bouncing into summer and hundreds of young artists around the North Bay are finishing class projects and creating exhibits, performances and other artful events for family and friends with Youth in Arts.

Recent posts have highlighted Spring projects by K-Dub Williams’ students at Marina Middle School and Angela Baker’s students at Harding Elementary, in addition to the amazing work created by Suzanne Joyal’s kindergarteners at Loma Verde as part of the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program. Youth in Arts also produced a special “Passport Art Event” at Harding, and Nydia Gonzalez and Shawna Alapa’i concluding performing arts residencies at Ocean View Elementary in Albany and Sonoma Mountain Elementary.

Students of all abilities perform together at Tam High

Students of all abilities perform together at Tam High

In late May, Arts Unite Us “collaborative residency” projects at Harding and at Tam High School in Mill Valley wrapped up with terrific performances by all the students. Collaborative residencies bring together special education and general education students for shared arts experiences. At Harding, students wrote, directed and performed an original play “Lydia and the Land of Gee-Jo” around themes of Pollution, Bullying, Self Acceptance, New Beauty Standards and Taking Care of Each Other.  At Tam High , the original pilot site for the collaborative residency program, students from the Special Day Class and advanced Conservatory Theatre Ensemble worked with Mentor Artists Suraya Keating and Melissa Briggs to write and perform their original play, “By my Side,” which opened the school’s popular One Acts Festival.

Hip Hop at Bahia Vista with Kaitlin

Hip Hop at Bahia Vista with Kaitlin

Tommy Shepherd’s students at Wade Thomas put an exclamation mark on their rap and beatboxing residency with a performance of their original rap for their peers at school, and Kaitlin McGaw’s kindergarteners at Bahia Vista will soon perform a vocal music and hip hop show for their fourth grade buddies.

At Laurel Dell in San Rafael, Djenane Saint-Juste has been teaching students Caribbean dance around the theme of Kanaval (Carnivale), using costume pieces the students created this Fall with visual artist Gabby Gamboa. The students will perform in a grand parade with family and friends at the school’s big Fiesta del Sol event this weekend. And at Mary Silveira, Mentor Artist Julia James finished a successful year with a big art show featuring work by all her K-4 students in the program.

Youth in Arts award-winning `Til Dawn a cappella ensemble performed their annual Spring Concert at San

`Til Dawn 2014 Graduating Seniors

`Til Dawn 2014 Graduating Seniors

Domenico Hall of the Arts this past weekend–a big congratulations to all the performers for a wonderful show and a special shout out to our graduating seniors. We will miss you!

Also at San Domenico, Youth in Arts workshopped a new performance of “Goodnight Gorilla” on May 23 with music by Dee Spencer performed by a terrific band of Bay Area music educators and musicians who are working with us to develop the work into an educational performance piece for youth jazz bands.

Workshopping Goodnight Gorilla at San Domenico

Workshopping Goodnight Gorilla at San Domenico

You can see it’s been a very busy Spring, full of fabulous art and fabulous young artists. Watch this blog for more detailed reports on many of these projects in the weeks ahead and get ready to celebrate summer with Youth in Arts! Come see `Til Dawn at Youth in Arts night with the Pacifics, visit our Everything Under the Sun YIA Gallery exhibit, sign up for a unique summer camp program, check out the Mountain Play and benefit Youth in Arts with your ticket purchase, or join us for our gala Summer Solstice celebration at Studio 333 on June 21. We’d love to see you in person and share our work with you. Happy summer!

Seven Years Good Luck!

Arts Unite Us Mentor Artist Hannah Dworkin writes about her work with Rockne Beeman’s Special Day Class

I have been incredibly lucky to work with Rockne Beeman’s upper elementary special day class for the past seven years. It is the first time I have worked with a community for such a long period of time. These children and teachers have taught me more about teaching and being a mother than any book I ever read or class I have taken.

I started teaching music and dance in Rockne’s class when I was 6 months pregnant with my first child. I brought in songs and ideas that worked in other special day classes. Some worked and some….not so much. I remember Phyllis, one of the aides in the classroom guiding me along with a smile and advice like, “just move on. You’ll learn soon enough that you’ve just got to roll with it when kids don’t get it at first,” and, “It doesn’t have to be just right today. Sometimes it just takes time.” When I was stuck, Rockne always had advice and articles to share, and Betty, another classroom aide, always has a way of finding humor even in the most difficult of situations. They are also quick to help and understand when one of my children was sick, teething or just going through the terrible two’s.

The students have shown such growth over the years. The children who have been in the class for several years have started leading portions of the class and choose their favorite songs. For some, there are songs that have become the touchstone that pulls them out of tantrums, and other songs and games have filtered into many areas of the classroom day.

The experience is wonderful every year,and I hope I am lucky enough to have many more with them.

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Magic Scarves

I walked into the special day class classroom I have visited for years, and “L” was having a fit.  Yelling, rolling on the floor and spreading general unhappiness.  The teachers and I tried numerous interventions, but nothing worked until we decided to pull out one of the “magic scarves.” This simple, oversized scarf works miracles in my classes.  Once the scarf was over “L,” she immediately calmed down and even participated in that day’s music lesson.

This is just one of many times this scarf has come in handy.  It is hard to say what makes it so engaging.  Students of varying abilities find it fascinating.  They follow it with their gaze, dance with it and will generally follow any direction as long as they get to interact with it.

There are a few specific ways I use this scarf.  First, I use it to encourage eye tracking or to bring focus to an area of the room.  It also helps to remind students to change levels in a dance and encourages a specific quality of movement, I also have students hold one end of the scarf while I move the other end.  Using this technique, almost every student will match my movements.

Though I am not sure of the reason for my students’ fascination with my scarves, I am grateful for its effectiveness, and I plan to continue to use it in years to come.

Listening and Responding

Last year I wrote a blog suggesting that students’ behaviors should whenever possible be seen as an attempt to communicate. I encouraged my fellow teaching artists to:

 

1. Find the hidden messages in “behaviors” or “breakdowns”

Those of us that work with special needs students are very familiar with behaviors or breakdowns.  Initially the crying, repetitive gestures and outbursts from these students may seem random, but they rarely are.  These students have no way of saying “I don’t like this song,” or “The volume is too high.” Ask yourself:

What activity preceded the outburst?

Has this happened before?

What did you or the classroom staff do that calmed the student?

When does this student seem most content?

Sometimes there are even messages in the sounds and words said while in the midst of a tantrum.  One of my students “J” threw a tantrum in one of my classes, and after close listening, I realized that he was yelling, “e-i-e-i-o.” He wanted to sing Old MacDonald but didn’t have the vocabulary to express it.  So we sang Old MacDonald and he was immediately calmed.

 2. “Read” your audience.

A  great many skills we develop as performers are transferable to teaching special needs students.  One such skill is being able to “read” your audience.  After a while we instinctively know when to slow down, speed up or drop a section completely.  The same goes for working with students.

If you find your students engaged in a song, repeat it.  This populations thrives on repetition, and those with language processing delays will have an opportunity to learn your material.  On the other hand, if the class is losing focus or individuals are starting to show behaviors, find a quick stopping place and move on.  It takes patience and flexibility to work with special needs kids, and sometimes no matter how wonderful your lesson plan is, you may have to make a quick change.

3. Your greatest resource: The classroom teacher

The special day class teachers are an amazing group of individuals who know their students extremely well. Ask them for advice and listen to them when they make suggestions.

This year I have been considering the difficult situation when I realize what a student is trying to communicate and I have to decide to honor the request or continue with the class.  For instance, if a student breaks down in the middle of a song, is it best to stop the song or continue in the hopes that ignoring the behavior will not reinforce it.  The simplest answer I have come up with is to look to the classroom teacher for advice, but I am realizing that being a teaching artist with the same children over several years and sometimes through several classrooms can help in this situation.  We are in the unique situation of knowing students on a very deep level and can plan and react accordingly sometimes even surprising the classroom teachers. There was a specific instance where we were singing a song, and one fo the students was obviously not enjoying the experience. The classroom teacher and I looked at each other considering what to do.  I shared that in the past if I get to the next verse, this child usually calmed down.  We tried it, and it worked!

YIA Mentor Artist Hannah Dworkin

Brain Dance

YIA Mentor Artist Hannah Dworkin

Brain Dance at Marindale Early Intervention

“I FEEL my brain getting smarter!  I feel my head getting bigger!” “B” from Meriam Granger’s pre-K language immersion class after her third session with “Brain Dance.”

Brain Dance was developed by   Anne Green Gilbert,  and it is comprised of eight types of movements based on the developmental stages of a baby goes through during the first year of life. The steps are: Breath, Tactile, Core-Distal, head-tail, upper-lower, body side, cross lateral and vestibular. There has been quite a few encouraging studies  about the use of Brain Dance with students of all ages.  I have been using it in variations in my VSA classes this year. Each of my classes have very different ability levels, and I found myself adjusting it to fit each scenario. Below are ways in which I found it most effective.

Class of autistic students age 3-5:

This group thrives on routine, so the key to having brain dance work with this class was to introduce it early in the 10 week residency and practicing it daily.  I gave the steps to the teacher, and she made sure to reinforce the movement.

Class of students with limited mobility:

This class was challenging because they were not able to move their bodies enough to participate in brain dance, so we all, classroom teacher and aides included,  were very hands on.  We helped them manipulate their limbs and as needed, and listened to gleeful shouts when we spun their wheel chairs at the final stage of the dance.

Class of language delayed preschoolers:

There were two important things to keep in mind with this group. First, they were very young, so keeping the pace up was essential.  I also used high energy, fun music to keep them engaged.  I also needed to be very clear with the language I used.  I needed to keep in mind that they needed me to use simple vocabulary to describe and demonstrate each movement.

YIA Mentor Artist Hannah Dworkin

Thank you to the Marin Community Foundation for their generous support of this and all of our programs serving students of different abilites!

Arts Unite Us at San Ramon Elementary

San Ramon Elementary School, “Arts Unite Us”

Spring 2013

Youth-in-Arts

Teaching Artist: Suraya Keating

How can we create a world where we learn to enjoy our similarities and our differences?  Where we can use imagination to work out conflicts and different ways of being?  These are the questions that catalyzed my residency experience at San Ramon Elementary School, where students from three 4th grade mainstream classes joined forces with students from Mrs. Lake’s 3-5th grade special needs class to learn skills of drama, and to put on a mini-performance of their work together.   In 7 action-packed drama classes, students worked collaboratively as they developed skills of acting and ensemble work, including: group pantomimes, creating tableaus, and using their voices and bodies in expressive ways to communicate a story.  They then combined these skills to act out three different modified versions of a traditional African folktale, “The Laughing River.”

 

At its core, “The Laughing River” is folktale which invites us to contemplate how to live in the world with all of our differences in such a way that we can all not only get along, but THRIVE.  It also invited the students to contemplate the question:  how can we effectively resolve conflict when we have differing preferences and needs?  In watching the students in the three groups that I directed at San Ramon School, I loved observing how the students in each group used their imagination to come up with a multitude of ways to solve the particular conflict in their version of the story.  For example, in one version of “The Laughing River,” one group of people became upset because another group was cutting down too many trees to make wooden drums.  How can this conflict be solved?  Students came up with a variety of imaginative and peaceful ways to resolve this.  Below is an excerpt of what they said:

 

How about if the people who want to make drums only cut down dead trees?

How about if we get half the trees and you get half the trees?

How about if the people who make drums find a different material to make their drums so that the trees can live?

 

Listening to students come up with their own ideas about how to solve conflict made my heart smile.  What also made me smile was to observe how the students listened to one another – taking in each other’s ideas and considering them rather than throwing them away.  In our short time together, it felt to me that students truly became an ENSEMBLE, with everyone wanting the best for everyone else.

 

Thanks to the students and teachers at San Ramon Elementary for their wonderful work! And thanks to the generous contributions that support the Arts Unite Us program from The Lester Foundation, The Green Foundation, The Marin Community Foundation and Marin Charitable.

 

Theater Arts and Play at Vallecito

 

The students in Ms. Stuart’s class for 3-5th grade students with special needs have something in common: they love to play.  What is it about play that makes it such a powerful learning tool for youth? In my theatre residency at Vallecito, they have exercised their ability to play well while cultivating imagination, focus skills, body and vocal expressiveness, and the ability to work together as a team.

 

At the start of our 10 week residency, Ms. Stuart’s students were very enthusiastic about drama, and eagerly “played” with each other using theatre games such as move and freeze, pantomime and the group mirror game.  Students moved as their favorite animals, portraying cats, dolphins, birds, elephants and others, and then told and acted out stories about these animals.  They told stories of animals who wanted to make friends, animals who needed help, animals who were happy, and animals who loved their families.

By the middle of the residency, after students had some practice with storytelling, we chose puppetry as a way to deepen their storytelling and story enactment skills.  Each of the youth created his/her own puppet that embodied an animal or a hero/heroine that he/she wanted to portray.  Puppet interviews followed, and during these interviews we learned lots about these puppet characters!  For example, one student, Carl, created a puppet with a magic eye that could see into the minds of all creatures.  Another student, Amber, created a bird puppet with many wings that could fly animals who were hurt to any hospital in the world so that they could get help.

In the end of the residency, students playfully enacted scenes with their puppets.  As so often happens, these scenes were full of real-life themes and lessons.  In one of those scenes, an elephant puppet named Ray was sad that his friends had left town, and asked for help from a monkey puppet named Chris.  The monkey puppet offered to help cheer Ray up by sharing his snack and inviting him to play a game of catch.  In the puppet world, as in the human world, the power of play to help us solve problems is an invaluable tool.  It is certainly a tool used and cherished by the youth I worked with at Vallecito, and a tool whose value will continue with every new child born on our planet.  Thanks to the youth who remind us about the power of play!

 

YIA Mentor Artist: Suraya Keating

Theatre Arts Residency Spring 2013

Music at Olive School

This year, I worked for 20 weeks with Linda Breakstone and Stacy Hall’s class, with students ages 5-10 with a wide range of learning, cognitive and physical disabilities.  My strategy was to try to engage each and every student, focusing on routine and repetition.  I’d always begin my class with the same opening song, go through a series of activity songs, and end the class with our “goodbye” song.

Music time with the kids consisted of interactive songs,  identifying the sounds, and physical play (i.e.. Row your boat, Hokey Pokey, London Bridge).  We use icons for non-verbal students so that they could make choices in the songs and activities. For example, for “The Wheels on the Bus”, we had photos of  windshield wipers, a baby, windows, etc.   When singing the song, students had the option to participate by holding up their icon.

Nina and Terry play "The Saints Go Marching In"

Often, I’d bring in rhythm instruments.   The highlight of this 20-week project was that my sister, Terry, came to share her trumpet on two separate occasions.   Kids LOVED blowing the horn, pressing the valves and marching (those who could) to “The Saints Go Marching In”

The teachers seemed to really enjoy music time, noticing that it was the one time of week when all the kids, teachers and aides get together with no interruptions. It was a fun session, I look forward to having the opportunity to come back next fall!

Nina Pasquale

YIA Mentor Artist, Olive School MCOE Special Day Class 2012-13

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