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Social Emotional Learning with the Oklahoma Arts Institute

Art has the power to engage and inspire students of all abilities. Whether it is the visual arts, theater, dance, music, or new media, creative exploration has been known to help students reach learning and behavioral objectives in productive and innovative ways. In early October, Youth in Arts Staff Miko Lee and Kelsey Rieger travelled to the Quartz Mountain in Oklahoma to lead a 17-hour professional development with teachers from across the state through the Oklahoma Arts Institute. Together, we explored arts integration strategies and techniques for addressing Social Emotional Learning (SEL) goals with students informed by student-centered frameworks such as Culturally Responsive Teaching and Universal Design. Over the course of three days through visual arts, dance, music, and theatre, educators learned about the five competencies of SEL framed by the following asset-based questions:

  1. Self Awareness: Who Am I?
  2. Social Awareness: Who am I in relation to the world around me?
  3. Self Management: How do I fit in to the world around me?
  4. Relationship Skills: How do I connect, listen and communicate with diverse people?
  5. Responsible Decision-Making: How do I make informed choices while considering how this will affect me and those around me?

Participants began by thinking about our personal identities and how they are informed by our experiences and our chosen and inherited family values. Following our daily warm-up and introduction, we created accordion culture books to give us a baseline for thinking about self awareness, and continued working on these books throughout the workshop. In order to take time to appreciate the process of learning and consider our work so far, we participated in a group gallery walk and reflection.

During our unit on Social Awareness, we performed our oral family histories through storytelling and embroidered mapping. After ruminating on the ways in which our divergent and personal stories gathered together at our point of contact – Oklahoma – teachers choreographed their collective family stories and performed them for the rest of the group. It became clear during reflection that building a culture of community becomes possible through the sharing and receiving of stories, and that we learn how to connect in the process of realizing what makes us different and what makes us similar. Additional theatre and movement-based activities were utilized throughout the workshop in order to offer kinesthetic and embodied ways to reflect on and engage in the core competencies of SEL.

Over the course of our sessions on self management, relationship skills, and responsible decision making, we explored multiple techniques for self portraiture using methods such as recycled collagraph prints, transparency portraits using lines that make our faces unique, and empathy portraits on vellum. To help build our visual arts skills, we practiced observational drawing techniques and considered the ways in which visual signals like lines could be characterized using all of the senses. At the end of the workshop, we layered our portraits in different mediums together to create a cover for our culture books.

On the final day of the workshop, participants reflected once again on the characteristic of storytelling utilizing graphic novels and Visual Thinking Strategies, as well as theatre activities such as The Moment Before. We then participated in a large-group Circle Story, pulling vocabulary from value words and personal characteristics that we had shared previously in the workshop. We added depth and meaning to the story by re-telling our narrative and introducing colors and emotions. We completed the workshop with an experimental painting activity in which participating educators were asked to create abstract, mixed-media artworks by following a series of instructions without knowing the expectations for the project’s end result. Following the activity, we reflected on what the process had felt like by discussing how decision-making is impacted by circumstances, and how we can help to empower and prepare our students to make impactful decisions knowing that they will not always know where those decisions may lead.

We closed the activities with a final group performance, utilizing performance-based techniques and strategies learned throughout the institute in order to communicate their closing thoughts and experiences. The process of learning and engaging was captured by facilitators and participants collaboratively through a Learning Wall, Youth in Art’s adaptation of the Making Learning Visible (MLV) process. Participants left the institute with access to arts-based resources created to help engage educators in practical skills for developing and fostering communication and collaboration, thereby creating more opportunities to empower student voice and identity in any classroom. 

Resources

STEAM Summer Learning at Lu Sutton

 

Exploring the local creek and designing their own natural playgrounds, creating songs about protecting the world, discovering the details in individual leaves and creating posters, learning vocabulary through dance games, using sculptures to explore science. These are some of the new experiences that teachers led summer school students through at the University Prep Summer School.

Teachers attended the Marin County Office of Education and Youth in Arts’ recent STEAM workshop and put their learning into practice to make their own art-infused program at Lu Sutton Elementary School in Novato.

Earlier this month, Youth in Arts joined the Marin County Office of Education and a team of educators and experts to conduct a workshop on STEAM learning.  K-12 teachers were asked to rethink how they could teach the California Environmental Principles and Concepts.

Lisa Heslip, principal of the summer school program at Lu Sutton,  said students were happy, well behaved and engaged. Students made a giant “Making Learning Visible” paper wall documenting their learning that was posted in the courtyard of the school. The 1st through 5th grade students focused on the environment, looking at everything from how animals and people interact to their own carbon footprint.

Among other things, students considered the eyeball of a cow, putting the contents in a plastic bag, labeling the optic nerve, cornea and other parts, and taping the ball to the wall. “I wonder where tears come from?” pondered a student. Lower grade levels looked at creating sustainable playgrounds.

Heslip took photos and posted them on the wall, and students added their own drawings and Post It notes with questions and observations.

“They stop at it all the time,” Heslip said. “It represents them. It’s not teacher created at all.”

Summer schools teachers also had intensive coaching by members of Agency By Design Oakland, who helped them with curriculum planning and were present during classroom teaching, Heslip said.

“When you think of English Language (Learners), it’s getting them to talk and express their ideas … giving them the opportunity to use academic language,” Heslip said. “What better way to do it than with a hands on activity?”

Preliminary research shows an increase in student summer school attendance (100% this year!) Teachers say they felt “inspired” and “reinvigorated” to go back into the classroom with these new tools.

 

Thank you to the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant, Marin County Office of Education and Marin Community Foundation for helping to make this work possible.

 

Short School Students Build Towers

 

Free field trips are one of the many programs that Youth in Arts offers! Recently, Short School students from Ms. Katie Marek’s class visited us to see Architects in Schools: Designing Community, the exhibition on display at the YIA Gallery through July 26. The show features the work of Laurel Dell 4th and 5th graders and their response to climate change, housing shortages and other critical issues San Rafael faces now and in the future.

Short School students studied the towers and models that Laurel Dell students made, paying close attention to the detailed bridges they built. We then built our own towers out of foam core board scraps, starting with three words that describe us. We came up with several words, such as smart, funny, careful and goodness. We wrote each word on a circle and then used special glue and toothpicks to build our towers. It was tricky to get them to balance and stand up but we persevered. One artist made a piece inspired by the San Francisco skyline, and another built a unicorn.

Ms. Marek’s class was part of Youth in Arts’ Arts Unite Us program. This spring, her students explored visual art through a 10-week residency program with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman.

Through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant that the Marin County Office of Education received, Youth in Arts was in multiple Special Day Classes this spring.

 

Spreading the Message About Arts Equity

Youth in Arts staff, Miko Lee, Suzanne Joyal and Kelsey Rieger have been presenting on arts equity as a tool to begin implementation of the Marin Arts Education Plan. On January 29 the team conducted a 3-hour interactive workshop for Marin County educators and administrators at Marin Community Foundation. Participants learned about the recent data released from the California Data Project and reflected on the Race Counts study. They watched “A Student Named Art” student produced film from the California Arts Education Alliance and deconstructed the video using Visual Thinking Strategies. They learned about the latest in arts education research, created a collaborative mural and used theatre to explore language arts and history links.

Thank you for the amazing presentation you and your team so beautifully engaged us in yesterday.  It was wonderful how you kept everybody engaged while instilling some crucial facts about the powerful impact art can provide students.  Observing the group, I feel confident that each person present will be sharing this information with others and thinking more about how to take the next steps within their district or school.”

-Eileen Smith, Marin County Office of Education Director of Education Services

That same night Miko & Kelsey provided similar workshop for the North Bay PTA leads and provided information about CREATE California’s Public Will Campaign.  For more info about this workshop, reach out to us: mlee@youthinarts.org