Reaching all students through the arts was the focus of a professional development workshop taught by Youth in Arts’ mentor artists Suzanne Joyal and Cathy Bowman. San Rafael teachers who attended learned how arts can facilitate a richer experience for students and support skill building in social emotional learning.
“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” (CASEL, 2019).
There are five core competencies associated with SEL including self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. The workshop focused on self-awareness. Self awareness is the ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior; and the ability to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a “growth mindset.” At Youth in Arts, we frame this core competency with the question: “Who Am I?”
We began with the Brain Dance, a way to warm up our bodies, fire synapses, and get students ready to learn.
Observational drawing teaches students to look closely and to record what they SEE, not what they remember or think. We start by drawing familiar objects, then move into self portraits. Observational Drawing also applies to projects in science (recording experiments), math, social studies and language arts (descriptive writing)
Self portraits can be realistic or abstract: we drew lines that represented adjectives describing us, and then experimented with mirrors and Emotions Cards: what happens to our eyebrows when we are excited? Our mouths when we are sad? What do we do when we see these expressions on our friends? What can we do to change them if needed? We used the Emotions Art Cards and Booklet to help us imagine emotions we could show.
We also introduced teachers to the Student Strengths Assessment: a tool we designed to help teachers, parents and students find their best ways of learning.
Youth in Arts has also produced a Digital Toolkit, which includes six videos on inclusive teaching practices for artists, classroom teachers and parents. We have also developed a free ARTS Bank. The database, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, allows educators, parents and students to type in an IEP goal or grade level and find an arts activity that matches.
This workshop was made possible 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 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.