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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.

 

 

 

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.

Thank you to our very generous donors, sponsors and partners:

Exploring Feelings through Making Self Portraits

Creating self-portraits is a challenging – but important – way to explore feelings and emotions.

At Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael, first graders started their self portrait journey by looking in the mirror and making different faces. In the first week, they drew five expressions: happy, sad, angry, surprised and scared. We made the faces together, then individually while looking in the mirror.

It was important to give students time to really look at themselves without the distraction of pencils and paper on the table. We felt the bones in our cheeks and noses and noticed details like eyebrows and hair. How is my hair different from yours? Students labeled each face they drew, practicing skills they use in academic subjects making diagrams.

The next week, we drew our own faces in pencil, using the whole page. Then we used black Sharpies on the best lines and added colored pencils. It was a great project to do before moving to our newly rebuilt old school around the corner after the holiday break.

This project was the end of a 12-week residency with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman exploring how to make and keep friends and social-emotional skills. Self portraits by kindergarten and first graders will be on display at the YIA Gallery on April 10 as part of the annual Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts exhibition, now in its sixth year. The show celebrates the life of 5-year-old Walker Rezaian and his love of the arts and is part of a program funded by the Rezaian family.

Mixing Skin Tones

How do I make brown? How many different shades of brown can I make? Second graders at Short and Laurel Dell elementary schools practiced mixing colors using only the primaries red, yellow and blue plus white.

We worked with tempera paint, waxy black markers and mat board. First we traced our own hands and the hands of our table mates, overlapping to create interesting shapes. We mixed different browns carefully and painted in each area. It was fun to see how purple and yellow make a brown that is different from the brown that blue and orange makes. We used donated mat board instead of paper to give students a velvety and durable service on which to work. Mat board is especially helpful with children with learning differences as it offers a strong sensory response, and won’t crumple with lots of paint.

Working with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, we have been exploring identity and our role in our communities and neighborhoods. The lesson followed a multi-week project in which students created richly detailed murals using collage papers, pastels and glue. In each class, we designed and envisioned our dream neighborhood after looking at artists Romare Bearden, Faith Ringgold and others.

Thank you to Lo Forti Fine Prints in San Anselmo for the generous donation of mat board.

Compassion and Confidence through Collaboration at Magnolia Park School

Concluding an Arts Unite Us residency at Magnolia Park School, Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Julia James and her students used their last day together to finish a collaborative painting they had been working on for over six weeks. The project began early on in the residency as students experimented with various tools and materials. Over the ten-week program, oil pastels, tempera paint, watercolors, rollers and different tools were used to make new textures and colors.

The first few layers of the painting demonstrated some of the early skill-building that students participated in. As we learned more about what materials were available and how to use them, we built upon our initial work using adaptive mark-making tools. Each week we practiced fine a gross-motor movement and built fine arts skills in color mixing, paint application, and decision-making.

On the last day of class, we gathered together to reflect on the artwork and come up with a title based on what we saw in our painting. We discussed the colors we had chosen, and thought collectively about what our artwork made us think about, and how it made us feel. During our conversation and throughout the residency, we worked on building our social emotional core competencies by exercising our sharing, listening, decision-making and collaboration skills.

Together, we decided that our classroom painting would be called, “The Story of the Leaf”. Can you see it too?

 

This program was made possible thanks to the generous support of our partners.

 

STEAM Field Trip to the YIA Gallery: Circles are Systems!

We love to connect with students in the Youth in Arts Gallery! The YIA Gallery is one of the few in the nation devoted solely to showcasing art by children.

Olive Elementary School kindergarten and first grade students visited the YIA Gallery recently for a field trip that explored shapes, systems and machines. Their teacher Emma Donovan had participated in this summer’s STEAM institute with Youth in Arts, the Marin County Office of Education and other experts. She wanted her students to have an experience connected to what she learned in the STEAM Institute.

“Our free field trips are a wonderful opportunity to tie classroom curriculum to arts learning,” said Youth in Arts’ Development Director Kelsey Rieger. “This experience was focused on STEAM with embodied learning teaching.”

Kelsey was joined by Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal and Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. We took the students on a gallery walk to look at the child-created works in the gallery, followed by the Brain Dance to warm up. We talked about circles we could make sitting down, and circles we could see in the art. We made circles with our elbows and noses. In the YIA Studio, we sat in a big circle and learned about systems and machines, first by pushing a giant purple ball back and forth at different speeds. We noticed that a ball can’t move by itself. While holding hands, we also sent energy around the room with a silent squeeze. It took concentration and practice to not lose the squeeze.

The final exercise was a fun way to talk about machines. Students were proud to show what they knew about different kinds of machines, and what those machines could do. Suzanne started the exercise by making a machine motion and sound.  As she continued, the next volunteer joined her to make a sound and motion that connected to hers. More students joined in, each making a different sound and motion. In the end, we had a large human-made machine with noises and motions working together.

We talked about where our machines lived and what they could do. One group made a machine that made snowflakes and lived in the ocean; another imaginary machine  handled climate change in the desert.  We concluded the field trip by creating a machine which included everyone and was made of familiar sounds and motions: a train.

Field trips are 45 minutes and always feature an age-appropriate hands-on arts activity. Children also learn techniques for looking at and talking about art. For more information, contact Youth in Arts’ Program Director, Kelsey Rieger: kelsey@youthinarts.org or at (415) 457-4878 x110.

Youth in Arts Celebrates New Show, New Executive Director

 

Nearly 50 arts lovers stopped by the Youth in Arts’ gallery recently to celebrate our current show and meet new Executive Director Kristen Jacobson.

Imagine Our World: In My Neighborhood runs until Dec. 6. The show features second grade art from Laurel Dell and Short elementary schools, including two large collages in which students envisioned their ideal neighborhood. Students connected to the idea that working together builds a stronger community. The show includes work made by young artists in response to the recent power outages and fires.

The show also features collaborative artwork from Youth in Arts’ booth at the West End Village Celebration on November 4. Over 100 artists of all ages contributed to two large-scale murals, and a community collage. Participants were encouraged to express their feelings about the Power Safety Shutoff through art making.

Jacobson thanked everyone for their support and said she was looking forward to getting down to work.

“I’m so moved and inspired by the work of the incredible artists and the legacy that is here in Marin,” Jacobson said. “I’m excited to focus on access to arts education, and equity for all” she said.

With the continued support of the California Arts Council, Laurel Dell’s PTA, UC Berkeley’s Y-Plan and RileyStreet Art Supply, Youth in Arts has designed a sequential arts program for students to build their skills over time. Every student receives 12 weeks of visual arts in the Fall and 12 weeks of dance in the Spring.

Youth in Arts has provided Mentor Artists to Laurel Dell Elementary School for almost 20 years. For the past four, however, Laurel Dell has been home to our demonstration project: a sequential, scaffolded arts program focused on the core competencies of Youth in Arts: Creativity, Compassion, and Confidence through arts learning. The program was designed by our Director of Visual Arts Suzanne Joyal. During their 12 weeks of visual arts in the Fall and 12 weeks of dance in the Spring, students learn to express themselves verbally, visually and physically in multiple art forms.

In 2016-17, 15% of Laurel Dell students identified as Latino were performing at proficient or advanced in Language arts. In 2018-19, that number jumped to over 51%!
While everyone at Laurel Dell works very hard to make Laurel Dell the wonderful school that it is, Joyal believes it’s not a mistake that the demonstration project coincides with this growth.
“Through the arts, students find their voice, express themselves and find success in many different ways,” she said.  “We know that arts bring joy. When kids come to school happy, they are inspired to work harder.”
The YIA gallery is open Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Last Friday’s event coincided with the 2nd Friday Art Walk in downtown San Rafael.

 

 

Suzanne Joyal Begins Master’s Program

This summer, Youth in Arts’ Director of Visual Arts Suzanne Joyal began her study toward a Master of Arts in Arts Education with a focus on special populations from Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, PA. The only program of its kind in the country, the program was founded by Lynn Horoschak, a pioneer in the field of arts education for special populations. For the students of Moore, and arts educators at Youth in Arts, “special populations” means anyone who does not thrive in the linear, neurotypical classroom. This could mean students experiencing disabilities, newcomer and english language learners, students experiencing the effect of trauma, or anyone with an IEP (Individual Education Plan).

“I decided to pursue the Moore Masters program after attending several workshops led by Lauren Stichter, the graduate program director at Moore. I have been working with students with special needs for 11 years at Youth in Arts, and after listening to Lauren, I knew I could do more. I know that what we are doing at Youth in Arts is necessary and needed and the right thing for all students. We all need to be able to express ourselves with confidence, and for many people (myself included), it’s through the arts that this is possible. For students experiencing disabilities, every day can be painful or scary or exhausting, and infusing the arts into learning is what can help them thrive. We want every student to want to come to school and to feel proud of their accomplishments, and I have witnessed how the arts helps many students get there.”

Suzanne spent six weeks this summer participating in the intensive program, is working remotely for the school year, and will return to Philadelphia next summer to complete and present her thesis.

2nd Graders Build Thriving Neighborhoods

Second graders at Short and Laurel Dell elementary schools in San Rafael created vibrant collages showing what a healthy neighborhood needs.

We began by looking at the work of artists like Faith Ringgold and the late Romare Bearden. Working with Youth in Arts’ Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, we used the “wax resist” method to write our names on watercolor paper and mixed blues and greens to paint a “cool” background. We talked about what a neighborhood needs to be strong and healthy, and what we need to be strong a healthy. Both classes included schools, libraries and homes of different sizes and shapes. There were some surprising additions too. At Short, one student suggested a carnival. At Laurel Dell, a student created a community art studio.

We then created collages, using only warm colors for our structures. That made them stand out when they were placed on the cool colored background. This gave us a chance to review what colors are warm, and what colors are cool. Once they were dry, we flipped them over and cut out our shapes. Details were added later with pastel and more paper. We looked at doors and windows from around the world, and noticed they are not always square or rectangle.

“This was a complex project with many layers, and students did an amazing job,” Bowman said. “It was wonderful to see them make connections between their own lives and their neighborhood.”

Some of the paper that students used was made by rubbing crayons and pastels across textured templates, creating brick patterns and other designs. More connections were made as the textured paper was shared between the two schools.

The projects will be on display as part of the upcoming Youth in Arts’ upcoming exhibit: Kids Imagine Our World: In My Neighborhood. The show of 2nd grade work from both schools runs Oct. 28 through Dec. 6. The opening reception, which will be hosted by the Youth in Arts’ Board of Directors, will be held on Nov. 8 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Laurel Dell Students Create Word Mural

First graders at Laurel Dell School in San Rafael have been exploring literacy through art with Youth in Arts’ Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. Students love to look at their art. When we make art with words, we look carefully to find what we know, which means we practice reading.

Students built a colorful word mural from important words they know. Using a donated canvas splashed with graffiti, old encyclopedia pages, oil pastels and glue, they made big words and cut them into interesting shapes. The words were glued onto the canvas, which will become a living document; students will be encouraged to add to their work throughout the year.

The goal of the project was to teach the young artists that words are fun. Teacher Vanessa Nunez helped with the project by encouraging the young artists to brainstorm about words they know. She wrote the words on index cards before art class so students were ready to copy them and practice their spelling. The final step was cutting their words into interesting shapes.

“Art is a wonderful way to teach literacy since all letters are shapes,” Bowman said. “Students love to engage in creative art making and show what they know.”

When a large box became scrambled while students searched for their letters, Nunez created a teachable moment. Students who are English Language Learners took turns sorting the letters and then naming them before putting them in the right place.

“Working at Laurel Dell is a great experience because Principal Pepe Gonzalez and his staff are so supportive,” Bowman said. “Working in partnership enables us to accomplish so much.”

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