Why do the arts matter? Look no further than Laurel Dell School.
The San Rafael elementary school recently celebrated its reopening with a joyful ribbon-cutting ceremony that drew dozens of students, staff and members of the community. Youth in Arts was there to celebrate its Architects in Schools program and to showcase the amazing work made during residencies last Fall while the school was being rebuilt.
Youth in Arts’ Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal presented Principal Pepe Gonzalez with the this year’s Pamela Levine award for his outstanding support of arts education. It was evident how much he is loved by the thick book Suzanne made that was filled with hundreds of cards and drawings from students, teachers and specialists. There were so many cards from well wishers that the book couldn’t hold them all.
Although Suzanne has never seen Pepe draw a picture, dance or sing, she considers him a kindred spirit who thinks like an artist.
“He enjoys the success that comes from solving problems as much as I do,” she said. “Mr. Gonzalez understand that the arts are about so much more than the pretty object we draw. The arts offer students a safe space to explore their world, to stand up to speak out and to believe in themselves.”
The day included visits to a special exhibition of work made with Youth in Arts’ architects Shirl Buss and Janine Lovejoy Wilford, and Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. Visitors were encouraged to look closely at how Youth in Arts teaches a sequential program in which skills are built upon from one year to the next. The lines and curves in a kindergarteners’ self portraits, for example, leads to a third graders’ colorful model of what Fourth Street in San Rafael could look like. That model gives fifth graders the skills they need to design spaces for the city’s future library.
Pairs of students from each class served as docents, giving tours, answering questions and explaining their work. Practicing speaking in public supports one of Youth in Arts’ goals: that students reflect upon making art and can speak confidently about their work. Third graders who worked with Shirl (creative director at UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN) will present their design and policy proposals for downtown San Rafael the city’s 2040 general plan steering committee on March 11.
The daylong celebration ended with a Family Art Night with Youth in Arts. Children in after school care, as well as families and friends, stopped by to make tiny bridges for crossing the canal. It required them to find a place where they thought a bridge was needed, then to measure the spot to make sure the bridge was long enough. They used buttons, embroidery hoops, clay, bumpy paper and wood scraps to bring their models to life.
Family Art Nights are a great way to involve families in the art their children are making and are usually a part of all Youth in Arts’
Artists in Schools residencies. For more information about art nights and Youth in Arts’ residencies, please contact Program Director Kelsey Rieger at (415) 457-4878 ext 110.
By Mentor Architect Shirl Buss
Laurel Dell Elementary School third graders recently hosted Transit Practice Leader Bob Grandy in their newly renovated school in San Rafael. Bob, an engineer and principal at Fehr & Peers, introduced students to a possible career in engineering while sharing his expertise with them. He also presented a wonderful slideshow with images relating to transportation planning and design.
Architect Shirl Buss has been teaching at Laurel Dell through Youth in Arts’ Architects in Schools program, which she helped develop. Shirl is also the Y-PLAN elementary director at the Center for Cities + Schools at UC Berkeley.
Bob familiarized the students with the opportunities and constraints along Fourth Street in downtown San Rafael with a special focus on mobility and access. Shirl reported that his presentation was both inspiring and instructive, and will help students as they take on the challenges of how to make Fourth Street safe, welcoming, fun and hopeful for everyone.
“These children are continuing to build upon the work from the past two years that Laurel Dell students and teachers – in collaboration with Youth in Arts and UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN – have been doing on issues related to sea level rise and the San Rafael 2040 General Plan,” Shirl said. “We expect these students to generate some exciting policy and design recommendations to offer to the Downtown Precise Plan.”
Thank you, Bob, for donating your time and expertise to our future civic leaders!
How do we build a tower? What makes us powerful? How can we build a bridge to connect our current and future selves? Fourth graders at Laurel Dell Elementary School considered these and other questions as they practiced design and build skills through Youth in Arts’ Architects in Schools program.
Through a 12-week residency with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, students measured, designed, built, and drew. They began the residency by coming up with five words to describe themselves and building “towers of power.” Each student received a four-inch square base and had to build within the constraints of that size. After building individual towers, they formed pairs and brainstormed ways to connect the towers as a single bridge.
The residency ended with the creation of tiny bridges within a wooden box, connecting their current and future selves. Students spent time brainstorming about what they wanted to be, any obstacles they needed to overcome, and what career they wish to pursue. They looked at bridges from around the world and considered how they were designed, taking into account strength and aesthetics. They developed visual images for each, such as books for a career as a librarian and a camera and globe for a future world traveler. The building materials were simple: toothpicks, buttons, Q-tips, paper scraps and other found objects.
“It was really exciting to see students improve from week to week, tackling each project with curiosity,” Cathy said. “It’s important to find as many ways as possible to support young people as they try to find out who they are and who they want to become.”
With the pilot project now in its fourth year, Youth in Arts placed mentor artists or teaching architects in K-5th grade classes at Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael. Each grade’s curriculum builds on the previous year’s skills. As with all our programs, we strive to foster confidence, creativity and compassion in all learners by offering innovative programs and teaching multiple ways. The Architects in Schools program was launched in 2016 with Youth in Arts in collaboration with UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN/Center for Cities + Schools .
We hope to expand this program to more sites in the future.
Fifth graders at Laurel Dell Elementary School have written an opinion piece for the Marin IJ based on their residency with Youth in Arts. Impressed by the students’ focus and hard work during a 12-week residency, architect Shirl Buss extended the learning by mentoring the students as they wrote their piece. In the end, it was the students’ own words.
Youth in Arts partnered with UC Berkeley’s Y- PLAN (Youth – Plan, Learn, Act, Now) to create an innovative program exploring the connection between art and architecture. We worked with fourth and fifth graders at the school.
“We wrote this newspaper column so we could get people’s attention, so they can listen to our ideas,” the fifth graders wrote. The piece was written by students Kim Mandujano, Gerardo Valencia, Genesis Perez and Janely Mendieta.
The artists described what they think San Rafael should look like in the future. They hope officials working on San Rafael’s 2040 General Plan will take their advice seriously for dealing with issues like sea-level rise, flooding, safety, housing and other concerns.
Laurel Dell teacher Marc Belmont said working with Buss and the Youth in Arts residency was a great experience.
“Thank you for working with the students. They love you and enjoyed every second with you,” Belmont wrote to Buss. “They were so happy and proud when we read the article in class. Wish you could’ve seen their pride and smiles on their faces.”
Read more about what the students had to say here.
or check it out here:
Thank you to UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN and the California Arts Council for helping to make this possible.
More than 100 parents, students and civic leaders attended a presentation of fourth and fifth grade art at Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael. Through an innovative partnership between Youth in Arts, UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN and the California Arts Council, mentor teachers taught a 12-week course that explored the fascinating relationship between art and architecture. It was a wonderful way to introduce students to the field of architecture.
Visiting architects who generously participated were led by architects and educators Shirl Buss of UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN and Janine Lovejoy Wilford, who taught fifth graders how to measure, design and build. Other architects who worked with the classes were Sally Dominguez and Dustin Foster.
Fifth graders worked hard to contributed to San Rafael’s 2040 plan, trying to imagine a city of the future and what sort of bridges it will need. We looked at pressing issues such as climate change and the need for affordable housing. We looked at the Canal Community, where many of them live.
Fourth graders engaged in a variety of projects, such as building Towers of Power using wood scraps and found objects and tiny bridges in a box. Throughout the course we refined our design skills along with practicing cutting, measuring and designing for small spaces. Using symbols, we bridged our current selves with ourselves and dreams of the future. Students also made beautiful paintings of their towers and worked collaboratively to bridge them together. Often students worked in their sketchbooks, designing projects before construction.
“As a trustee AND community planner, I was thrilled to see the results of this work, and the voice of the students. The Y-plan program is renowned around the country, and it’s fun to see it in San Rafael, at Laurel Dell. This kind of project covers all the common core aspects – congratulations to the teachers and Youth in Arts, and gratitude to the students for sharing their ideas.”
-Linda Jackson, San Rafael School District Board Trustee
Laurel Dell fourth graders embarked on a 12-week journey exploring bridges to make connections between art and architecture. The course ended with tiny bridges that were built in a box. This project was another approach to a self portrait. Where are we now? Where to we want to go in our lives? The goal of this project was to bridge our current and future selves and dreams.
We began with a discussion of symbols and what images we would use to show our present and future selves. We sketched a design in our sketchbooks to work out what our bridges would look like. This was a crucial step in working out the details. Then we used watercolor to paint the backgrounds, carefully adding details with colored pencils. It was hard to wait for the paintings to dry! The paper was pre-cut so it would fit into 6 by 6-inch wooden boxes.
The final class was devoted to building tiny bridges made from thick white paper, string, buttons and glue. We used Q-tips to carefully apply the glue to small places. It was challenging to work small, but good practice using scissors and hole punches. Some students used traditional bridge designs while others got quite creative! One student built a lily pad bridge using clay. Several students said this was their favorite project.
Mr. Belmont’s fifth graders have been working with Architect and Educator Shirl Buss for the last 12 weeks. They have focused this year’s work on the San Rafael 2040 Plan: what do today’s young people want for their city when they are grown up? Lots of green space and color, educational opportunities for Boyd Park, transportation that includes buses, bike and walking paths from end to end, safe affordable housing, more jobs, turning buildings along the canal toward the water, and designing new structures for sea level rise.
Last night, four representatives from the class joined Ms. Buss at the San Rafael 2040 Plan General Meeting. Students presented their ideas to the entire planning committee, and were articulate and thoughtful and clearly very knowledgeable about their work. The city planners asked many questions, and students not only answered them all, but wanted even MORE!
See the video here.
Ms. McCarthy’s Fifth graders at Laurel Dell Elementary School have been working with Janine Lovejoy Wilford (a practicing architect and educator). They, along with Shirl Buss and Mr. Belmont’s fifth grade class, have been working on the question, “What Do You Imagine for San Rafael in the year 2040?
By Shirl Buss, Architect and Educator
We had a wonderful session with the 4th grade students in Mr. Seligman’s class last week. Suzanne, John and I teamed the students in pairs.
Thank you so much for your support: Laurel Dell PTA, teachers and students, UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN, and the California Arts Council