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At Willow Creek-Professional Development gets creative!

Teachers enjoy a creative painting project giving them tools and skills for future classroom beautification projects. Teachers were grouped by grade levels asked to come up with a phrase or slogan, brainstorm & sketch ideas, then given materials and a basic banner.sign and painting lesson. Great upful positive energy!

Professional development

Teachers working it out!

Artist Dinner

The arts are not something to add to the plate.

The arts ARE the plate.

The key to student engagement.

And communicating what student know and can do.

– Dr. Milton Chen, Edutopia

Recently the Youth in Arts Mentor Artists came together for our yearly September orientation and dinner. It was an evening filled with passionate discussions about why arts education matters and the impact it can have on students, schools, and communities.

These professional artists represent a wide array of backgrounds, talents, and disciplines. During the orientation the artists go to know each other through hands-on experiences that incorporated music, dance, theater, and visual arts. As a group they discussed strategies for building multiple learning modalities into their school residencies. They also investigated the language of state standards and considered how the arts overlap all content areas. To get to know our Mentor Artists, please browse the Youth in Arts website.

All Hands on Deck at Short School & Laurel Dell!

Youth in Arts is embarking on a school-wide Mural Project at Laurel Dell and Short School in San Rafael.  YIA Mentor Artist Angela Baker will be working with students and teachers to create two school murals with the theme of “Our World”.  In preparation for this project, teachers came together with YIA Mentor Artists Nydia Gonzalez and Angela Baker to explore the theme of the project and how it can connect with daily classroom curricula.

Working from YIA’s “I Am From…” lesson plan, the group of educators explored identity, culture, community and core values, culminating in a group project.  Using tracings of their hands, words, images, symbols and some glue, each group created a visual representation of their values and goals as a community of educators.

Now, it’s the kids’ turn!  Students will work with their teachers and Angela to conceptualize, design and create their school mural.  We all look forward to seeing their work!

Fiestas and Fauna!

Ballet Folklorico at Laurel Dell

With help of a generous grant from the California Arts Council and the Laurel Dell PTA, the students of Laurel Dell and Hamilton Elementary were treated to a unique opportunity this Spring.

The multi-part program in Ballet Folklorico was inaugurated with an assembly performances by the Ballet Folklorico Netzahualcoyotl at Laurel Dell, and Ensembles Ballet Folklorico at Hamilton. The troupes performed dances from several regions of Mexico including La Danza de Los Viejitos, which is an allegory for respecting your elders, and Las Amarillas, which shows the beautiful movement of birds. Students learned about each dance and joined along in movements and song!

At Laurel Dell School, Maestro Netza chose to teach the students dances from the Son Jarocho because working with each grade level, he was able to help students share and learn about the diversity of Spanish, Mexican and African Rhythms in Mexico. Netza explained how Africans brought to Mexico as slaves contributed to the styles and rhythms of Son Jarocho. The Jarocho genre evolved from a combination of influences: European, Indigenous and African; making it a Mestizo art form.

The students of Laurel Dell shared the stories of their ancestors from all over the Americas, and through the dances of Son Jorocho, were able to learn more about their own family backgrounds. During their time with Maestro Netza, each grade level learned one of these traditional Sones Jarochos:
Kindergarten: Maria Cirila, About a girl who makes Chocolate
1st Grade: La Guacamaya, about the Macaw bird
2nd and 3rd Grades: La Iguana, Mimicking the movements of the Iguana
4th Grade: El Colas, About a popular boy named Nicolas
5th Grade: La Bamba, The traditional version of the popular song.

The teachers at Laurel Dell also received professional development sessions with Mentor Artist Nydia Gonzalez in which they learned the historical and cultural context of the dances; dance steps; and, how to sing and play instruments to accompany the student performers. This enabled teachers to continue practice when the artist was not there, as well as further integrate the content into academic lessons.

At Hamilton School, YIA Mentor Artist Zenon Barron focused his dance program on the Flowers and Fauna of Southern Mexico, specifically the states of Tabasc, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Puebla and Guerrero. One of the goals of this program was to emphasis the importance of preserving our natural habitats and earth’s animals that are celebrated through traditional dances: Los Quetzales (Colorful Birds), El Zopilote (The Buzzard), La Iguana (The Iguana), Pajaros Azules (Blue Birds), and El Patito (The Little Duck). This process inspired students to explore the imagery and imagine how these animals would move to the rhythms as they learned the steps to the traditional dances.

Each of the students took part in making their own costumes by creating a design sketch and applying their color choices depending on the animal they were depicting in the dance. Each of them transferred the idea to material, creating their costume. This was a theatrical approach, allowing students to further explore the animal movements and attributes.

Students learned to breathe deep, and stretch and strengthen their muscles through some Yoga techniques. A few children commented to Maestro Zenon that they liked learning how to stretch and breathe. One student said that he felt like his heart beat better afterwards. Through dance techniques and floor exercises, students learned to follow choreography creating squares, circles and triangles as a group, and how to move within the limits of the stage space. They also learned how to create the intricate percussive rhythms with their feet, which play a large part in the Folkloric dances of Mexico.

Students at both schools (and some of their teachers!) performed their dance at their school-wide Fiestas, where students were able to compare and contrast the stories, styles, and music of each dance performed, and community members enjoyed the colors and sounds of their festive dances!

Thank you to the California Arts Council for helping us to provide this wonderful program to our community!!

Shadow Puppet Performance

First Graders in Ms. Duran and Ms. Jackson’s class at Willow Creek Academy studied the rainforest all year using a project-based learning approach. The culminating performance consisted of large murals, shadow puppets, and a rainforest musical!

Working with YIA Mentor Artist Brooke Toczylowski in art class the artists learned about plants and trees from the rainforest and created large murals that highlighted their discoveries about science and color mixing. See the previous blog post entitled How Can I Be a Scientist AND an Artist? to check out the process.

After an INSPIRING Teacher Professional Development with Daniel Barash,  a shadow puppet master and the Director of the Shadow Puppet Workshop, the rainforest musical took on a shadow puppet form. Kids created shadow puppets out of simple materials and got excited about practicing their performance. For a packed house they sang songs and bounced their shadow puppets across the three stages.

Behind the Scenes Ms. Duran directs students using their shadow puppets and singing the musical

The set included three shadow puppet stages surrounding by the students’ rainforest murals

Looking Back/ Looking Forward

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

– Henry Ford

Today was the last middle school visual arts PD in SMCSD.

Building a community of learners takes time and dedication.

The visual arts program in SMCSD has built strong collaborators, reflective minds, and thoughtful educators.

Today the teachers were asked to reflect on 4 questions. Using watercolor paper and many different materials, teachers were asked to respond to the questions. The art work was then placed in an envelope that was addressed to the specific artist, and the envelope will be mailed at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year.

Each teacher approached the reflection differently:

Some worked with paint.

Some responded with words.

Some stood to do their work.

Then everyone was asked to pull one word out from their reflection book that was then painted on paper.

These words will be added to the MLK studio word wall.

THANK YOU SMCSD teachers for all of your amazing work and support!

Engagement in the Studio……….

Carmen Rivera focusing on the surface of her piece.

There was a steady “hum” emanating from the MLK art studio this past Wednesday afternoon.

Students had all gone home, and all of the SMCSD Middle School teachers had gathered for their monthly Visual Arts Profressional Development session.

“Art is therapy for the mind.” Said one teacher.

“I immediately felt like an artist when I put this apron on and got to work.” Said another teacher.

Mr. KDub has been working on an identity project with his students, asking them to wonder “Who Am I?”  The project began with tracing the different artists’ forms on wood panels.

“How does how you carry yourself show the world who you are?”

The artists are then filling their sillhouettes with elements that define who they are. The forms will then be cut out from the wood panels, and installed against the fence on the periphery of the MLK garden.


So the teachers were asked to experience the same process.

Student work fills the light-filled studio. An inspiration to all visitors.
Student work fills the light-filled studio. An inspiration to all visitors
Natasha Griffin is shown here tracing Mr. KDub in an action pose.

Matt working towards completion of his project.

Natasha takes her time making choices about color.
Making artwork takes time and focused energy.

Stepping back and looking at finished work.

Teachers Learn About Visual Arts Empowering Students

“How do the visual arts encourage both classroom teachers and students to envision solutions?”
“How do the visual arts empower students?”
“What does arts integration support in the classroom?”
“What can classroom teachers learn about their own teaching through the arts?”

These were some of the questions discussed at the SMCSD middle school visual arts PD session.

We gathered in the MLK art studio, and talked about arts integration, student learning, and project ideas.
Then teachers got to work. Using the Youth in Arts WHO AM I? curriculum, teachers honed in on one question that they wanted to consider while creating a tunnel book :
Read more…

Encouraging Literacy through Art Making

Bayside School and Willow Creek Academy Elementary teachers came together for their monthly Visual Arts PD.

Vibrant paint chips were the catalyst for inspiration.

In pairs, teachers were given the challenge to create a story using all of the words listed in the paint chip color strip.

The writings were playful, collaborative, and incited ideas for further extensions in different classrooms.

Teachers were then given strips of canvas paper with three drawn circles.

The next challenge was to explore color mixing, and to create three new colors.

How can these colors represent a moment in your day? A smell you experienced, an emotion, or a vision that inspired you?

Once the colors were painted on the canvas, language was connected to the mood of the color.

As a group we reflected on what we noticed, and ways these explorations could be used in different areas of the curriculum.

Arts professional development builds partnership & community

This past Wednesday, December 8th, all of the Elementary teachers in the Sausalito Marin City School District came together for their monthly arts PD session.  As the rain was coming down hard outside, the teachers were inside reflecting, creating, collaborating, and experimenting.

To begin, each teacher drew one SHOM word from a bag to think about and work with.

The teachers were then asked to think about how they utilize that practice in their own teaching, or perhaps they have observed Ms.Brooke using it within her teaching, or perhaps they dream of using it in a certain way in the future.

The teachers then pulled out an aspect or aspects of their reflection that could then be visualized using materials:

Chalk, watercolor, Sharpie, graphite pencil, collage matierals.

The classroom space was filled with a buzz as materials were chosen, layered, blended.

At the end of the session, the orb-formed pieces were stretch out across a table for reflection.

What do you notice?

What do you think?

What do you wonder?

The responses were positive, and the willingness to look and listen and explore was inspiring.

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