Youth in Arts joined the Marin County Office of Education and a team of STEM educators and experts to conduct a week-long professional development workshop on STEAM learning for more than 60 teachers in Novato, CA. The program was dedicated to considering how the environment impacts people and how people impact the environment, asking K-12 teachers from across Marin County to rethink how they might teach the California Environmental Principles and Concepts to their students in innovative and interdisciplinary ways.
Utilizing a culturally responsive framework to consider the diverse ways in which our students learn, we considered how to address global issues such as climate change through a local lens using place-based inquiry and problem solving. The week-long training event began with participants experiencing STEAM as learners, taking part in a Phenomena Walk that involved finding and drawing an intersection between nature and something human-made and employing discussion-based reflection frameworks like Visual Thinking Strategies to break down the meaning of the Environmental Principles and Concepts.
We then examined sea level rise and ways to make meaningful change through a case study of the Canal in San Rafael, and used the Engineering Design Cycle to plan out how to take this case study and apply it. Building on this process, we used resources from the Davidson Middle School’s Makerspace to think creatively and prototype solutions to issues such as reducing plastic consumption and designing structures for desalinization. Throughout the institute, participants learned ways to use art collaboratively in the classroom, from techniques such as theatre-based presentations to a Making Learning Visible wall that showed how to document the process of learning through photographs, words and art.
Participants were encouraged to create a cross-disciplinary framework meant to empower students to ask questions and become advocates in their communities. If teachers support students in becoming leaders, they in turn can design solutions to care for the environment. “The impact of humans on the environment is something we can’t ignore, and young people are already leading the way toward finding solutions,” said Executive Director Miko Lee. “This was an important collaboration to help teachers reach all learners through multiple methods.”
Lee was one of the keynote speakers of day one focused on Cultural Responsive Teaching. On the second day students from the Sunrise Movement spoke about getting the Green New Deal passed in Marin. On day three, artist and activist Favianna Rodriguez, who talked about the importance of looking for stories that allow students to create a future of possibility. She also showed a map of the Bay Area and noted how poorer areas bear the brunt of pollution. Encourage students to examine their own community, she said, and document what is represented – and what is not. On day four former Youth in Arts Director Nydia Algazzali Gonzalez spoke about the importance of interdisciplinary learning. To watch the keynote speeches, please visit the Marin County Office of Education.
The final two days included time for curriculum planning. A cohort of 18 teachers returned on Sunday to gear up for Summer School. Those summer school teachers, will receive mentoring from Agency By Design whose Executive Director is Brooke Toczylowski, former YIA staff artist.
Mishka Banuri is a 17-year-old from Utah who helped craft and pass the Utah Climate Resolution, the first of its kind in a traditionally conservative state. Here is a video made by the Brower Awards.
Mari Copeny, also known as Little Miss Flint, has been the 11-year-old activist about the Flint Michigan water crisis. Here is an article/video of her in Teen Vogue.
Jamie Margolin is a 16-year-old Seattle teen who founded Zero Hour, a youth led climate change movement. Here is Jamie’s TEDX talk. Each of the teens in Zero Hour represent a different perspective and part of the United States. More about the team in the NYTimes here and also here in the New Yorker.
Jade Sweeney is an 18-year-old from North Carolina who is combatting Colony Collapse Disorder and addressing bee conservation by introducing apiaries and pollinator parks in her local schools. Here is a video made by the Brower Awards.
Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh is a teen Indigenous environmental activist who sued the U.S. government over the issue of climate change. He is also a spoken word artist. Here is a vice video (FYI swearing involved). Here is his talk to the United Nations.
Greta Thunberg is a teen Swedish climate change activist who lead the international student strike. Here is Greta’s TED talk. Here is the Brave video about her leading the movement.
Rose Whipple is a 17-year-old from Minnesota who is fighting the Pipeline, which is proposed to go through Minnesota and indigenous territories and will threaten the way of life of the Anishinaabe and Dakota people. Here is a video made by the Brower Awards.Kaiya Yonamine, an Okinawan-American 17-year-old created “Our Islands Treasure” video about the building of another U.S. military base that is polluting the ocean. Watch the 3-minute trailer here. There’s also a 20-minute documentary with some subtitles.
Brower Awards – Go here for video profiles from Earth Island Institute’s Brower Youth Award for Environmental Leadership. Many, many excellent youth activists from across North America and covering a variety of environmental issues.
Climate Woke!/CultureStrike Project discussed by artist Favianna Rodriguez links climate change to racial injustice. Climate Woke video.
Water Protectors – Here is a teacher’s guide (with lessons, videos, stakeholders) on Dakota Access Pipeline protesters -– the Standing Rock Water Protectors (many of the leaders are youth).
by YIA Mentor Artist Nydia Algazzali Gonzalez
This year my participation in the Arts Unite Us program was special, as it was the first year in nine years that I am no longer the Program Director. This year, I had the absolute pleasure of exploring music and movement with four amazing teachers, their supportive staff and wonderful students! Through Arts Unite Us, I led “VSA Arts Connect All” music residencies at both Venetia Valley and Vallecito Elementary schools, as well as teaching percussion and dance at Terra Linda High School.
At Venetia Valley, students from Kate Mansour and Chelsea Smith’s Special Day Classes engaged in a variety of song games and movement activities. Students learned songs that encouraged practice in motor skills, collaboration, making choices, vocalization, working with manipulatives and listening. In Ms. Smith’s class, we did lots of fun movement songs like “Down in the Valley”, focusing on gross motor movements and coordination; “Little Johnny Brown”, developing fine motor with as we folded our little “comforts”; and “La Guacamaya”, focusing on rhythm and practicing spreading our wings as we flew around the room.
We also had a lot of fun with our egg shakers, looking for new ways to play them and using vocabulary like shake, roll, tap, pat, etc. Ms. Mansour’s students also utilized their digital devices to make song and movement choices. We played a rhythm we called “pizza-pie” to accompany the traditional son jarocho, La Bamba.
Students in Ms. Jansen’s class at Vallecito Elementary enjoyed the variety of songs, instruments and manipulatives that we used during music time. With the song “Mary Wore her Red Dress”, we would sing about something special that each of us was wearing. Students loved acting like fishes swimming through the “Deep Blue Sea”, as we played the water drum and they took turns swimming under the blue water scarf. One of our favorites in this class was when I would bring out the high-pitched jarana to play La Bamba – smiles all around!
At Terra Linda High School, sessions with Ms. Hughes’s class focused on various Latin Dance genres including cumbia, bachata and reggaetón. Students learned traditional movements, steps and choreography. We developed our collaboration skills as we danced with partners and in groups and each student contributed original movements that were worked into the dances. We also had a blast playing percussion instruments and jamming at the end of class.
Thank you to the YIA staff and to Suzanne Joyal for continuing the work and nurturing the program to which I dedicated so many years.
VSA Arts Connect All residencies at Venetia Valley and Vallecito Elementary schools were provided in 2016 under a contract with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
And many thanks to the Buck Family Fund of the Marin Community Foundation for their continued support of Arts Unite Us programs.
Youth in Arts is so excited to release our album of songs from Photosynthesis, The Musical!
The songs are all available for free download on the Bandcamp website. Inspired by Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm, the songs were written and composed by Youth in Arts staff and Mentor Artist Miguel Martinez to accompany our theater show Photosynthesis, The Musical. In this tale of a Magical journey, students and their science teacher Ms. Frizzle travel to a world where they can experience and understand the processes and importance of photosynthesis; transforming their skepticism and boredom into understanding and enthusiasm!
Join us in celebrating the magic of photosynthesis with these fun songs. Miguel Martinez, Nydia Gonzalez, together with a talented group of singers and musicians, sing songs that teach us about how plants make energy, sugar, fiber and how the sun keeps life circling ’round. Help to bring science alive and sing along with us!
Thanks to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for making this recording possible and accessible to all! www.moore.org
If you are interested in learning more about how Youth in Arts can bring the magic of photosynthesis to your school with arts, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently, families from Harding Elementary School in El Cerrito joined Youth in Arts Mentor Artists in a Passport Art Event. Participants received a paper “passport” and traveled to various countries and exploring their art forms during this evening event.
Outside the Multipurpose room we danced to the beats of Brazilian Samba Reggae with YIA Mentor Artist Stephanie Bastos. Stephanie has been teaching dance in the K-3 classrooms throughout the school year and during this event students, parents and siblings got the opportunity to dance together with her.
There were many moments of dance solos that were not to be missed! Inside, we swayed to the melodies and rhythms of Persian Classical Dance with YIA Mentor Artist Shahrzad Khorsandi. Dancers got to use beautifully decorated scarves to highlight the dance movements. We also learned about the instrumentation with live music provided by Pourya Khademi.
Utilizing special rice paper and bamboo brushes, YIA Mentor Artists Julia James and Miko Lee led participants in Chinese Brush Painting techniques to create beautiful paintings of bamboo. Artists also learned how to make their special “chop” or, signature in the corner of their painting.
We also created tin medallions representing our Mayan Nahual or, birth sign. Using the Mayan Calendar, each person calculates their Nahual, which indicates the “essence” of their spirit according to Mayan beliefs. We used wooden stylus to etch in the outline of our Nahual and colored them with markers.
Youth in Arts is thankful to all of the families staff and friends who showed up
and traveled the world with us! We look forward to continuing our day-time programs in K-6th grades which will culminate in sharing events later this month. YIA Mentor Artist Thomas Arndt is teaching theater classes during school as well as in a special after school group dedicated to writing, producing and performing an original theater piece that addresses issues of acceptance, friendship, appreciating differences and being true to yourself. Stay tuned for a performance date!
Thank you to the Thomas J. Long Foundation for making this program possible! With their support, we are able to provide financial aid for year-long arts programming at Harding Elementary and celebrate our diversity and expression in many forms!
To find out how you can bring this to your community, click here.
If you happen to be walking down the halls of Terra Linda High School on a Thursday morning, you may hear loud squeals of excitement, the beat of a cajón and a melodic song of “Eu Sou Samba Reggae!”. These are the sounds emitting from Rachel Hughes’ MCOE Special Day Class at Terra Linda High School, where YIA Mentor Artists Stephanie Bastos and I, Nydia Gonzalez are teaching a Latin Dance class.
Students have been working on gross motor skills and collaboration through moving in unison, learning choreography, improvising, leading and many other exercises. During a typical class students go through a series of warm-up activities including the Brain Dance (Anne Green Gilbert, 2000); each individual creates a name pose for themselves; we review learned steps and choreography; learn new material; and then improvise in a Samba Reggae carnival type procession!
The focus of our dancing has been on Brazilian Folk dances including Samba and Samba Reggae, and students are very eager to show off their knowledge of the geography, language and dances of Brazil! YIA Mentor Artist Stephanie Bastos has extensive dance training,
studying with Masters of Brazilian Dance and Folklore in The Bay Area and in Brazil, and holds her BFA in Dance from University of Florida. She teaches youth a variety of dance forms including Afro-Brazilian, Hip-Hop and Contemporary dance.
Stephanie speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese, and despite having lost a limb in a car accident, she has performed with highly recognized dance companies in Florida and the Bay Area, inspiring people of all abilities.
I have trained in various forms of Dance and Music, and have been providing live percussive music (cajón) during sessions. I am so excited and feel privileged to continue to work with this fun, energetic and loving class; a continuation of teaching them Latin Dance in 2011, co-teaching with William Rossell to teach Middle Eastern Music and Dance in 2012, and now co-teaching with Stephanie in 2013.
“I particularly love watching my students creativity flow and develop. When the music comes on, I see a whole different side to my students. They are able to break out of their shells and just dance! Stephanie and Nydia bring a positive and energetic energy into the classroom. Learning a new dance and language expands my students knowledge of themselves and the world!”
MCOE Special Day Class Teacher, Rachel Hughes
This year, our neighboring classroom will not only bounce to the beats that they hear through the walls, but, they are joining our Arts Unite Us program, which means that after a few more weeks of working in the Special Day Class, we will be inviting the whole class of mainstream peers from Peggy Koorhan’s Spanish class next door to join us. We are all very excited to learn together! Stay tuned for an update in a few months!
YIA Program Director, and Mentor Artist, Nydia Algazzali Gonzalez