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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.

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!

 

 

Youth in Arts Teaches Summer School

Youth in Arts is excited to be teaching summer school at several sites and mentoring teachers to incorporate STEAM learning. As with all of our programs, our goal is to help students find their voices and share their stories. At Davidson Middle School, Mentor Artist Tracy Eastman is making murals with nearly 100 students. “They are student-driven murals created around the idea of community art as a change-making tool,” said Youth in Arts’ Program Director Kelsey Rieger. “Students brainstormed about world issues and what message they wanted to share with their community, and will be creating their murals based on the solutions they come up with.”

At Bahia Vista Elementary School, Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman is teaching literacy to incoming first graders through the arts. Using visual arts, movement and sound, the goal for students will be to increase their knowledge and understanding of certain words and sounds, and to ignite a passion for reading that will inspire them throughout the school year. Some projects include making letters with our bodies and creating letter monsters in special sketch journals, where students reflect on and write about their work. Each session includes a book with a story that reinforces words learned that day.

“Our summer work is an exciting outgrowth of the programs we provide year round, ” said Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Miko Lee. “We know students learn in multiple ways, and we are using the arts to find innovative ways to reach all learners.”

We are also working in partnership with Agency By Design to mentor nearly 20 teachers who attended the STEAM professional development workshop recently with Youth in Arts, the Marin County Office of Education and other STEM experts. Those teachers are working this summer at Davidson, Lu Sutton Elementary School and San Jose Middle School.

The teachers were among the more than 60 educators who attended the weeklong STEAM program, which looked at how the environment impacts people and how people impact the environment. We asked K-12 teachers to envision how they could teach the California Environmental Principles and Concepts.

Sharing Native American Culture at Davidson

P1180966Master Performer Eddie Madril wowed the students at Davidson Middle School as he performed sacred dances and spoke about the importance of understanding Native American history. Eddie, also a professor at San Francisco State University, talked about the Iroquois Confederacy which had operated since the 16th century and was the basis of the American constitution. He invited students up to the stage to learn some of the dances, and Principal Bob Marcucci was even game to join in learning some of the challenging, Hoop Dance.

In addition, Youth in Arts honored students in the Media and Theatre arts classes taught by Mentor Artists, Sophie Cooper and Margaret Hee, with a series of awards. The following were recognized:

Youth in Arts Awards

Cody Lucich Award for Confidence is given to students who exhibit a willingness to take risks and show confidence in their approach to making art. It is given to students who are undaunted in their approach to art-making and utilize innovative ideas to express themselves. Cody Lucich is a filmmaker who works extensively in community-based ‘Native media.’

  • Luna Correa is a talented visual artist, with excellent drawing skills and unique imagination. She is always engaged and is able to connect what happens in the classroom with the broader community.
  • Daisy Perez inspires the classroom with her positive attitude, leadership, critical thinking and inquisitive nature.
  • Bradley Cornett is consistently engaged and is always ready to participate. He brings a positive attitude and maturity to class.
  • Dayana Calderon is brave! She is always willing to voice her opinions, appreciative of others’ opinions, and engages positively and creatively in class.

Carrie Mae Weems Award for Compassion is given to students who are good listeners, who care about other people’s perspectives, and who demonstrate the potential to be a positive community-builder. Carrie Mae Weems is a photographer who also works with text, fabric, audio, digital images, and installation video.

  • Aileen Beltran brings a positive attitude to class and is always willing to help others. She leads by example and has an artistic eye.
  • Yanira Lucia Gonzalez is consistently dedicated and on task. She puts deep consideration into her work and appreciates the arts. She also helps other students with their work.
  • Zandy Bautista has an excellent attitude. She always helps others and makes the room shine with her compassionate outlook.

Juana Alicia Award for Creativity is given to students who utilize their imagination to create exciting new ways to showcase their artistic voice. Juana Alicia, is a Bay Area muralist, printmaker, educator, activist and, painter.

  • Yessica Mazariegos is an insightful visual artist. She is always on track, and has a calm presence in class.
  • Jasmin Tlachi has a very creative eye for photography and has demonstrated artistic excellence in her work as a photographer.
  • Harvin Sanchez has excellent drawing skills, which he brings to his storyboarding and storytelling through drawing.
  • Alexis Alejandre has a very good eye for photography. She comes up with very original and creative ideas and is able to transform her mood by engaging in class work.
  • Wilibaldo Baten-Rosas & Carina Cabrera are the best artistic collaboration!! Their work demonstrates an excellent, creative team.
  • Jeffrey Mazariegos is an excellent photographer and demonstrates a creative use of perspective in his work.
  • Ana Olvera is a highly engaged creative artist. She thinks deeply about her work and has a flare for working with the camera.

Lin-Manuel Miranda Award for Determination is given to students who are hard workers, determined and diligent about learning and making art. Lin-Manuel Miranda is an American composer, lyricist, playwright, and actor best known for creating and starring in the Broadway musicals In the Heights and Hamilton.

  • Angel Mauricio is an eager participant who is inquisitive and brings a fresh outlook and positive attitude to class.
  • Jorge Pech is not afraid to stand out as someone who cares and who has ideas and participates. He shines in the classroom with his courage and strength of character.
  • Andy Romero is a good listener, consistently engaged, and a strong leader. His hard work has made him the most improved student in his class.
  • Dave Mazariegos demonstrates creativity and positive engagement in class.

 

Thank you the California Arts Council for supporting this program.

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Theatre at Davidson Middle School

By Mentor Artist Margaret Hee

Attending Davidson Middle was not easy for me. I moved to CA at age twelve after my parent’s divorce and became caught up with a rebellious crowd. The summer after my 7th grade year my mother stuck me in theatre camp and it quite literally saved me. This past year (a good 17 years later) when Youth in Arts reached out to me about teaching theatre at Davidson I jumped on the opportunity. I hoped that if theatre helped me in my pre teen years, certainly it could help some other young creative minds at Davidson Middle School.

A lot has changed since I attended Davidson: it is a much safer environment with a plethora of resources. I had the opportunity to teach 180 ELD students across 5 classes 3 days a week and what I came to realize is that students really want to be heard. My initial approach was to teach theatre in the way I know best: with warm up, games, generative theatre exercises and rehearsal. Within a week it became clear that the students were not remotely interested in what I was offering. Given that they did not know me and I did not know them, I began having group conversations focused on their interests and concerns. Many of the students felt a lot of pressure in their academic classes and relished the opportunity to simply “free draw” or voice their opinions about what was happening in the world.

Instead of forcing self conscious students  to act in from of one another, we created stories and utilized shadow puppets as a mode of performance. They all responded to visual art, so with the help of Suzanne Joyal the students created their own individual Italian Street Paintings inspired by the prompt “We Dream of a World”. As noted before I led several group discussions and from these I compiled a group narrative monologue and then taught the students how to do voice-over recording to document the piece.

The highlight of the semester was when I brought a group of students from Redwood High School to present a production I had directed them in. Following the performance the Redwood students played games with the Davidson students and taught them movement exercises and stage combat.

This was ultimately the most challenging teaching experience I have had, but rewarding on many levels. Upon reflection at the end of the semester the students commented the following:

What brought us joy
I enjoyed everything we did. Love you Ms. Margaret!
I enjoyed the Italian Street Painting
I enjoyed the Redwood High School students and the teachers
The movies we watched
The theatre games!
Taking pictures with the cameras
Using shadow puppets
Having some freedom!
Making a poster using magazines
Working on projects with friends
Meeting new people

What we learned
Art can make you happy
How to tell stories through creativity
How to not be shy
I learned how to be responsible, respectful and most importantly to laugh!
I learned about foreshadowing
How to take photos and how to edit
How to create shadow puppets. That was fun!
Picture is texture
I learned how to communicate with others
I learned cooperation, friendship and being respectful
How to take pictures from different angles
I learned about balance in pictures
I learned that we should all have equal rights
I learned about different light and shade in pictures
Art!
To be creative
How to play the game BANG
This year I learned that you should treat others the way you want to be treated because it does not feel good when people say bad things to you

Visual Media and Theatre Arts at Davidson Middle School

by Mentor Artist Katie Issel Pitre

Greetings and welcome to an updateIf they knew me on the exciting partnership between Davidson Middle School in San Rafael and Youth in Arts!

As part of the new Strategic Vision of Youth in Arts to create model arts education programs K-8th grade, Mentor Artists Sophie Cooper and Katie Issel Pitre have been teaching New Media and Theatre Arts to 180 Davidson middle school students daily.

Beginning in late August Sophie and Katie have been working with 10 classes, grades 6th – 8th to provide arts enrichment for a student population that until this year had not received any elective classes. This year, Principal Bob Marcucci wanted to change this, partnering with Youth in Arts these students are half way through the first year of this pilot program and are getting in the swing of art making.

The project that the students have been working on has been cumulative – we’ve been building skills, teamwork, discussing and activating themes through play writing, college making, reflecting on values, watching many films – critiquing them and learning more about the way to use film to send a message.

In Ms Cooper’s New Media class students worked towards a photography project taking portraits of hands and also of eyes.  In Ms. Katie’s Theatre Arts class students composed collaborative poetry using the anaphora “With these hands we can…” and ” People think that I… But if they really knew me…”

If They Knew Me…

Pairing these two projects we used the photography from Ms. Cooper’s class, and recorded the audio from Ms. Katie’s classes and created two differently themed collections of films.  One collection pairs the photography of hands with the poetry “With these hands we can…”.  The other collection of films pairs photography of the eyes and the poetry “People think that I… but if they really knew me…”.

The final for their first semester was a film screening of both of these film collections.  Students observed all of the films, and then reflected on the process, the messages, considered what was missing and then brainstormed about what they want to make their next films about.  Some topics that were mentioned were making films about their lives, about kids who choose to be sober, about their friendships, about their immigrations stories, and more.

For students who have never had an arts residency like this Sophie and I are proud of what they were able to accomplish.  Their artistry has increased, as has their teamwork, self confidence, perspectives, and

 

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Meet New Mentor Artist, Margaret Hee!

Margaret HeeDavidson Middle School students will soon welcome Mentor Artist, Margaret Hee into their classrooms for a semester-long theatre residency. A Marin County native, Margaret brings a unique perspective to her residency, as she was once a Davidson student.  In addition to her numerous acting and directing credits, Margaret has taught theatre all over the country, including recent projects at Redwood High School (Larkspur), Mills College (Oakland) and Olinda Elementary (Richmond).

In order to get to know Margaret a bit better, we asked her to identify a problem in the world today, and to tell us how she would use her art form to solve it.  Here is Margaret’s thoughtful response: “Every human being on our planet is made of DNA, skin, bones, organs, brains, and blood. Our physical construct though different on the surface, is made up of the same stuff, but somehow throughout history certain groups of individuals have been forced to the margins, their narratives being pre determined by some intangible set of guidelines. Theatre is a tool that can redefine narratives. Through my art I aim to ignite possibility in others.”

BIO: Margaret Grace Hee is a theatre artist and teacher focused on developing new plays and devised work that influence tangible positive change in the world. Margaret received her BFA in Acting from the Santa Fe Institute of Art and Design and her MFA in Directing New School of Performing Arts School of Drama. She is the founding Artistic Director of Baby Crow Productions for which she played the role of Austin in True West and has directed Whore: a kids play (Edinburgh Fringe Festival ’17) , Sapien Sapien Sapien, Cowboy Mouth, Cowboys #2, Cast of Characters, “Live” from the Bullet Stopper, and Enter Your Sleep, among others. As a freelance director, Margaret has worked with Ugly Rhino, Wide Eyed Productions, Dream Theatre, The Midtown Int. Play Festival, Colorado Shakespeare Festival and Fringe NYC. Selected assistant directing credits include: Everything You Touch, dir. Jessica Kubzansky (Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre); Henry VI P.I , dir. Vanessa Morocco & The Tempest, dir. Geoffrey Kent (Colorado Shakespeare Festival); Seawife, dir. Liz Carlson (Cape Cod Theatre Project); The Boys Room, dir. Sandy Shinner (Victory Gardens); Naked Radio Live, dir. Laura Savia (Naked Angels); 24 Hour Musicals, dir. Kathy Najimy (24 Hour Plays). As an actress she and has worked with Victory Gardens, Eclipse Theater, Adventure Stage, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Soft Cage Films, The Agency, and New School for Drama.

Spoken Word Kicks off the Year for Davidson Middle Schoolers

Principal Mr. Marcucci welcoming students to an exciting new year.

Principal Mr. Marcucci welcoming students to an exciting new year.

Every Davidson Middle Schooler began this school year with an assembly performance by Spoken Word artists Gabriel Cortez and Eileen Torrez. The artists performed their own original works, talking about growing up Latinx in the Bay Area.

The assemblies were followed up with questions, and also classroom discussions around self expression to address issues of diversity, cultural understanding, and struggling in a time of great change.

Get to Know Mentor Artist Katie Issel Pitre


Since Youth in Arts completed our new strategic plan this spring, we wanted to properly introduce our Mentor Artists to our more in-depth model, and to each other.  Our artists work directly in the classrooms, so they rarely have a chance to interact.  We hosted an “all artist meeting” in August, and it was wonderful to see them talk to, listen to, and learn from one another.  Our icebreaker activity was a worksheet that asked the artists to identify a problem in the world today, and how they would use their art form to solve it (using words and/or pictures).  The prompt was WITH MY ART I CAN…

Here is Mentor Artist, Katie Issel Pitre’s response and accompanying artwork:P1180036

“A problem I see in the world today, is many people being uncomfortable with their own emotions – escaping/avoiding difficult feelings, reactive disempowered people lacking a deep knowledge of self.  With my art I can…create a space to explore the self, face, dimensions of human experience and emotion, and gain confidence and compassion to build community.  I model moving through emotion using all my actor’s tools.  I craft experiences that ask students to step into others shoes, as actors for each other (classroom) and for communities (family).”

Katie teaches various forms of theater and creative movement for Youth in Arts, both in our Arts Unite Us and Artist in Schools programs.  She is currently teaching Devised Theater at Davidson Middle School, and at the Canal Alliance’s after school program.  Katie Issel Pitre Artwork

BIO: Katie Issel Pitre is a Berkeley native who recently returned to the Bay Area after 11 years based in Brooklyn.  There she worked as a teaching artist in spoken word, devised theatre, mural arts and playwriting throughout the boroughs of New York and New Jersey for Urban Word, Community Word Project, New Victory Theatre, BAM, and New Jersey Performing Arts Center.  Katie expresses her artistry as a facilitator as she works to bridge the gap between personal and cultural experiences by creating community-building opportunities via the creative process.  Her background in dance, voice, theatre and poetry shape her focus as an artist and educator.

Most recently she starred in two short films written and directed by Christopher Wells of Kaleidoscope Pictures called Cynthia and My Fondest which can be found on YouTube.  She also participated in an online writing course for women facilitated by Caits Meisner where she produced several new works of poetry.  Her writing was featured in a site-specific play series Play/Date, produced by Blake McCarty. As a devising actor she worked with the Trusty Sidekick company, and on two interview theatre pieces, The Class Project, directed by Joe Salvatore, and Layer Cake(actor and writer) performed at the Looking Glass theatre.  As a singer in Shell, she wrote and produced an EP.  Katie has also performed in multidisciplinary projects featuring her dance training.  She designs jewelry for City Seed.  Katie holds a MA in Educational Theatre in Colleges and Communities from NYU Steinhardt.

 

 

Meet Mentor Artist Sophie Cooper!

Since Youth in Arts completed our new strategic plan this spring, we wanted to properly introduce our Mentor Artists to our more in-depth model, and to each other.  Our artists work directly in the classrooms, so they rarely have a chance to interact.  We hosted an “all artist meeting” in August, and it was wonderful to see them talk to, listen to, and learn from one another.  Our icebreaker activity was a worksheet that asked the artists to identify a problem in the world today, and how they would use their art form to solve it (using words and/or pictures).  The prompt was WITH MY ART I CAN…

Here is Mentor Artist Sophie Cooper’s thoughtful response and accompanying artwork:
S. Cooper Headshot 2017

“A problem I see in the world today is xenophobia.  With my art I can…help people see the world through someone else’s eyes.  A film can draw you into an experience of understanding that is registered through many senses simultaneously – sight, sound, emotions.  This allows people to get a sense of how another person experiences the world.  So often the fear of the unknown occurs by observing another’s experience and not being able to see beyond our own subjective viewpoint.”

Scan 1Sophie Cooper’s teaches New Media, Media Literacy, Digital Storytelling, and Visual Art.  She has been working with Youth in Arts since 2010.

BIO: Sophie’s undergraduate studies were interrupted in 1999 when she joined her brother working as a volunteer for a small organization in Kosovo called Balkan Sunflowers. Arriving only 3 months after Kosovo’s one million refugees returned to their destroyed homes, she began organizing cultural activities with the community’s youth.  In 2001, together with a network of artists from Kosovo, she participated in the formation of the Crossing Bridges Collective to organize and annual trans-Balkan music and arts festival. Inspired to document these vibrant cultural events, Sophie began working as a video artist and then went on to refine her skills at the Film Academy of Prague, Czech Republic (FAMU). She then received a dynamic degree at the University of California at Berkeley combining both visual arts and critical social theory. Sophie’s work as an artist has developed hand and hand with her work as a community organizer. She has found that her favorite form of activism is that of visually celebrating the beauty of nature and the beauty of culture.

 

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