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San Rafael, California 94901
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Feeling the Rhythm of a Drawing

If you tap out the beat of a drawing, what sounds does it make?

More than 40 middle schoolers from the after school program at Trinity Lutheran Church in San Rafael stopped by the YIA gallery for a free field trip linked to our Rising Stars high school art exhibit. Youth in Arts’ Program Manager Kelsey Rieger asked students to search for lines as they looked at the paintings, drawings and sculpture in the exhibit.

Using scratch paper, students chose three different lines they saw and talked about patterns. Then using rough brown paper and white and black pastels, students used their lines to make an abstract drawing. When everyone was finished, Kelsey described the work of a curator, asked them to curate their own work. They started by spreading out their individual works and looking for connections based on line, pattern, color or composition. Students talked about the connections they saw to explain why they put their work where they did. In the end, they created a collaborative piece.

Kelsey also talked about rhythm in art. Using a piece of dried bamboo and a stick, students looked at the art on the table and created a rhythm to communicate what the art said. It was fun to hear different interpretations of the work.

“We learned about pattern, repetition and rhythm because they are all important aspects of learning how to build a balanced composition,” Kelsey said.

Field trips are a great way to explore an exhibit, and include a 45-minute program planned by Youth in Arts’s staff. There is no charge, but please call in advance to schedule. For more information, please call Kelsey at (415) 457-4787 ext. 110. And don’t miss Rising Stars, which showcases the best of Marin County high school artists. The exhibition closes on March 27.

Kindergarteners Build Playgrounds of the Future

What do we need to play? How can we make it? How can we work together? Kindergarteners at Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael spent a wonderful day building imaginary playgrounds.

Using large pieces of black foam core board at each table, students applied skills they had previously learned about shaping paper. Twisting long strips around pencils made spirals; making feet with folds allowed them to make swings. Folding accordion style made the stairs they needed to climb to a slide.

 

The young artists also explored pattern but using paper with patterns and creating their own patterns on plain paper with pastels. Working with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, we talked about other patterns we saw in the classroom and what connections we could make. How could we work together? How could we connect our ideas to make one playground?

The project offered rich opportunities for Social Emotional Learning through collaboration and sharing. When one little boy wanted shiny paper, several of his classmates offered him some. In another class, a student happily translated the instructions for her table mate, an English Language Learner. Teacher Alejandra Vazquez helped students connect the project to their real world experience by pointing to the blacktop outside their temporary classroom. If you could design the playground of your dreams, she asked, what would it look like? If you needed shade from the hot sun, how would you find it?

At Youth in Arts, we work hard to scaffold projects, building each week on skills learned earlier in the residency. The project was the second time students created playgrounds. Two weeks earlier. they made smaller, individual playgrounds; the following week they drew their own and a friend’s playground on paper,  figuring out how they could connect them.

At the end of class, students went on a gallery walk with their hands behind their back to look at each other’s art. We had a rich discussion about similarities we saw in color, shape and line and all the ways we can make connections.

The program is part of the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Fund created by Youth in Arts and the Rezaian family and generously supported by the Rezaians. It celebrates Walker’s life and love of the arts and is built around friendship and social emotional learning. How do we make and keep friends? What happens if we both want to build a slide in the same place? It gives children a chance to explore those and other questions in a safe, artistic place.

 

 

 

Fourth Graders as Architects and Designers

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.

Engaging Students through Movement: Why I teach the brain dance

By Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman

This year, I decided to start all of my art classes with a Brain Dance, a series of movements developed by dance educator and author Anne Green Gilbert to wake up the brain and improve focus. Often I see students at the end or beginning of the day, when they are restless or tired.  My five-minute version of the Brain Dance helps reinvigorate them while focusing on re-mapping of brain-body connections.

Inevitably it’s the wiggly students, the ones who need it the most, who are the most resistant. As an introduction activity, the Brain Dance acts as a daily assessment tool for my students. Who is having trouble calming their body or mind? Who has trouble with cross lateral movements? Who confuses left and right? Even, how is their sense of self today? Watching them move gives me valuable information about what skills they may find challenging when it comes to art making or the level of engagement I may need to address.

The dance includes eight patterns of movement, starting and ending with the breath. Deep breathing is essential for all healthy bodies. When children are stressed, it’s no coincidence that they take short, shallow breaths. Starting and ending with belly breaths means more oxygen for young brains. From breath, the Brain Dance moves through the developmental patterns of movement (the movements we take in our first year after birth) to the most integrated pattern, cross-lateral connectivity. Cross-lateral is the pattern that crosses the four quadrants of the body (upper, lower, right, left) which supports higher thinking and even eye tracking used for reading and reading-readiness.

Recently I had a kindergartener who always wore a serious expression. Adrian solemnly watched his classmates do the Brain Dance, week after week, without joining in. On the seventh week, he spontaneously started participating in the warm up with a big smile on his face. Instead of saying “good job” or “well done” (vague) I looked for something specific in Adrian’s movements that I could point out, and others could follow.  He found confidence in his kinesthetic learning that day; and my acknowledgement of his effort (by name) reinforced his effort and ability. He became a positive role model for the rest of the class.

When I started doing the Brain Dance it felt uncomfortable for me, since I see myself as a visual artist rather than a dancer. But as we learn more about how children learn and absorb information in multiple ways, integrating different art forms makes sense. When Laurel Dell 2nd graders visited the YIA Gallery recently, they learned an extended version of the Brain Dance from Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Kristen Jacobson. I picked up some tips as well.

The Brain Dance also helps teachers stay centered and focused.  Who doesn’t need a belly breath during the day? You can learn more about the Brain Dance by viewing this video, Brain Dance, which is a part of Youth in Arts Digital Tool Kit.

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