Concept-based Creative Dance for Babies & Toddlers

Posted by Rachael Carnes On March - 20 - 2013
Rachael Carnes

Rachael Carnes

Babies and toddlers love to move! Any parent or caregiver can tell you that.

For further demonstration, just look at the happy expression on their little faces as they flap their arms like a bird or their sheer focus and determination as they scoot across the floor on their tummies: kids just seem to have fun exploring their world through their own bodies.

And as they play, stretch, curl, reach, grasp, teeter, cruise, crawl and run, they’re also learning.

What Do We Mean by the Kinesthetic Sense?

When asked to list the human senses, most of us would rattle off sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. From the shape and color of an apple in a picture book to the smell of grandma’s pumpkin pie or grandpa’s curried tofu, babies and toddlers get lots of sensory experiences that they will begin to recognize, sort, differentiate, and assimilate.

As babies and toddlers grow, their sense of their own movement, called kinesthesia, will expand. Some movement educators, physical therapists, and developmental psychologists refer to the kinesthetic sense as the “sixth sense”: It represents not only the sensation of your child’s own body, either still or moving, but also his or her growing ability to abstract cause and effect among objects. Read the rest of this entry »

Adding Arts to the Equation

Posted by Susan Harris MacKay On March - 19 - 2013
Susan Harris MacKay

Susan Harris MacKay

Every day, in every aspect of curriculum, Opal School students are invited to work with the arts to express their interpretations and growing relationships with the world around them.

Inspired by the municipal preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, Opal School began 12 years ago with the intention to pursue the question: What are the implications of these approaches for the American Public Elementary School?

Carlina Rinaldi, has written, “We are all researchers of the meaning of life. Yet it is possible to destroy this attitude of the child with our quick answers and our certainty.”

We ask ourselves daily: What assumptions need to shift if we are to sustain curiosity and preserve this attitude of research? What would school look like if it intended to promote the development of the kind of healthy brain architecture our citizens need to support a healthy planet and democracy?

What happens if we withhold quick answers? What relationships become visible? What tools and strategies become of value?

In TED prize winner, Sugata Mitra’s recent talk, we hear him ask similar questions. While I agree with his equation/response to these questions: broadband + collaboration + encouragement, my experience tells me he is missing a vital part: the arts.  Read the rest of this entry »

Akua Kouyate

Akua Kouyate

At a Congressional Briefing about the national dissemination of Wolf Trap’s Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts (Early STEM/Arts) project—now in the third year of a U.S. Department of Education Arts in Education—Model Development and Dissemination grant—a District of Columbia Public Schools classroom teacher who had participated in an Early STEM/Arts residency approached me.

The teacher talked excitedly about one parent who came to her in tears of joy as she shared how her four-year-old explained to her that the sun does not rise and fall, but stays still while the earth orbits around the sun. The teacher also described how her children spent time in the dramatic play area of the classroom taking turns being the sun while directing their playmates and teachers to “orbit” around them.

What happened in that Wolf Trap residency that had such a strong impact on that classroom? I was able to see it myself a week earlier, when I’d visited the teacher’s classroom during an Early STEM/Arts session. This is what I witnessed:

Through the drama techniques of imaginary journey and utilizing sensory experiences, a classroom of four-year-old preschoolers prepares to embark on an outer space expedition. Before they leave, they put on their imaginary space suits, like the one that is projected on the big screen/smart board.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts: Promoting Language & Literacy of Young Children

Posted by Louise J. Corwin On March - 18 - 2013
Louise J. Corwin

Louise J. Corwin

Art has traditionally been an important part of early childhood programs. The arts in early childhood education is spontaneous, creative play—drawing, painting, self-expression, singing, playing music, dancing, storytelling, and role playing.

Pre-school age children love the arts because that is what they do naturally. The arts engage all the senses and kinesthetic, auditory, and visual modalities. When parents, early educators and early childhood teachers engage and encourage children in the arts on a regular basis early in life, they help lay the foundation for successful learning and school success. The Early Years Matter!

In early childhood vernacular, the arts include children’s active participation in a variety of experiences—dance, drama, fine arts, and music. These activities allow them to express themselves through the arts and appreciate what they observe.

To be ready for school, children need to reach core milestones and master key skills and abilities in seven domains of learning including the arts.

Important questions to ask include:

  • What skills in the arts do young children need?
  • Why are the arts important to school success?
  • How can parents support the arts?  Read the rest of this entry »

A Tale of Lifelong Learning in the Arts

Posted by Michael R. Gagliardo On March - 12 - 2013
Michael R. Gagliardo

Michael R. Gagliardo

When I was a sophomore in high school, my band director arranged for me to audition for the Alton Municipal Band. I had no idea what a big deal this was. It was my first professional gig. I was going to get paid to play the trumpet. I was nervous, and excited, and more than a little intimidated.

I showed up for my first rehearsal and was seated in the section playing third trumpet. I was disappointed at the seating results, but hey, it was a start.

My stand partner was a man named John Mitchell. He was at least 70. I was 16. He came in and unpacked an old, worn cornet.

I was sitting there with a shiny new Bach trumpet, thinking “who is this guy and what am I doing sitting down here next to him?”

As the season began, we started to talk. He was a nice old guy—and if I remember correctly (and I hope I do, in honor of John’s memory) he had served in the military, and then gone on to marry, raise a family, work hard, and live a good life.

I can’t remember where he learned to play the cornet—if it was in school, or in the military. I just remember that during all that time when he was taking care of his family and building a life for them, he set his cornet aside. He probably put it in a closet where it gathered dust for years—even decades. And then one day, when his kids were grown and he had retired, he took it out again.  Read the rest of this entry »

Use Arts Integration to Enhance Common Core

Posted by Susan Riley On December - 20 - 2012

Susan Riley

These days, integration in any area, be it STEM or the arts, seems to be the buzzword to curriculum designers everywhere. There are so many resources floating around out there with the claim of integrating content areas. Yet, true integration is often difficult to find. Indeed, integration is a rare yet seemingly “magical” approach that has the capacity to turn learning into meaningful practice.

Which of course, as any teacher will tell you, is anything but magic.

Integration requires collaboration, research, intentional alignment, and practical application on behalf of the teachers who take on this challenge. From the students, integration demands creativity, problem-solving, perseverance, collaboration, and the ability to work through the rigorous demands of multiple ideas and concepts woven together to create a final product.

Integration is not simply combining two or more contents together. It is an approach to teaching which includes intentional identification of naturally aligned standards, taught authentically alongside meaningful assessments which take both content areas to a whole new level. Put together, these components set the foundation for how we will be able to facilitate the Common Core State Standards. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Reduce the Damages of the Common Core

Posted by Yong Zhao On September - 12 - 2012

Yong Zhao

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

Specifically, the Common Core claims to cure the ills that have long plagued America’s education: inequality and inefficiency. “Common standards will help ensure that students are receiving a high-quality education consistently, from school to school and state to state. Common standards will provide a greater opportunity to share experiences and best practices within and across states that will improve our ability to best serve the needs of students.”

While the Common Core may help address some of the challenges we face in education, but must not forget that the side effects that come with it.

There is no free lunch…

All medicine has side effects. When it cures, it can harm the body as well. Put it another way, there is no free lunch. Everything comes at a cost. Education cannot escape this simple common sense law of nature for a number of reasons.

First, time is a constant. When one spends it on one thing, it cannot be spent on others. Thus when all time is spent on studying and preparing for exams, it cannot be spent on visiting museums. By the same token, when time is spent on activities not necessarily related to academic subjects, less time is available for studying the school subjects and preparing for exams.

Second, certain human qualities may be antithetical to each other. When one is taught to conform, it will be difficult for him to be creative. When one is punished for making mistakes, it will be hard for her to take risks. When one is told to be wrong or inadequate all the time, it will be difficult for her to maintain confidence. In contrast, when the students are allowed freedom to explore, they may question what they are asked to learn, and may decide not to comply.

Finally, resources are a finite as well. When a school or society devotes all resources to certain things, they don’t have them for others. For example, when all resources are devoted to teaching math and language, schools will have to cut out other programs. When more money is spent on testing students, less will be available for actually helping them grow. Read the rest of this entry »

Susan Riley

When was the last time that you listened to or watched The Sorcerer’s Apprentice? The tale of the inquisitive, bold, and dare I say “sneaky” apprentice who tempts fate by trying his own hand at magic is one that all of us can appreciate on some level.

After all, as educators and arts advocates, creating magic is inherent to our craft. Yet, as the apprentice discovers to his dismay, trying to replicate magic from a common book of spells without the understanding of the processes that weave the spells together only ends in disaster.

In terms of our current educational movement, I’m going to make a bold statement: it is time to transform knowledge into intentional practices. This is at the heart of the Common Core State Standards. Each of the skills that are identified are built upon embedded practices that have been woven in and through the Standards at all levels. How better to address those practices than through the arts? After all, the arts are built upon a foundation of processes that transform into innovative works and products. You cannot perform a choral piece or premiere a piece of work at an exhibition without both mastery of the skills of that art form and an understanding of the processes that provide structure to the art itself.

The Common Core Standards place value in the “and” of the teaching and learning process: students must master the skills and demonstrate understanding of the processes that support those skills. This is the magical place where knowledge is transformed into practice. Yet, it is difficult for teachers, administrators and even artists to translate that into their everyday teaching. How does this happen? Where is the link between the spells in the book and the actual magic that is produced?

The key here is the practices themselves. The Common Core Math Standards, for instance, are based upon the 16 Habits of Mind and have a group of 8 Mathematical Practices that are woven into each grade level. While the skills standards change for every grade, the eight practices are the glue that holds the skills together. This is difficult for many teachers to interpret and weave into their instruction. They have become so used to “teaching to the test” that they have forgotten the craft of teaching itself. Read the rest of this entry »

On Being Career Ready: Whose Career Is It Anyway?

Posted by Niel DePonte On September - 11 - 2012

Niel DePonte

The Common Core State Standards document (CCSS) states:

[College and Career Ready] students are engaged and open-minded—but discerning—readers and listeners. They work diligently to understand precisely what an author or speaker is saying, but they also question an author’s or speaker’s assumptions and premises and assess the veracity of claims and the soundness of reasoning.

Being a discerning reader of the CCSS, I love the idea of being career ready, it sounds great. But I am left pondering the question, “To which careers are we referring?” I agree that the CCSS, if met, would actually allow for a graduating senior to be ready for virtually any field.

But there is a catch. I don’t see how there would be enough time across a K–12 learning curve for a student to become deeply engaged in any discipline within a school such that the student could gain a sense of mastery of a discipline, craft, artistic or athletic pursuit…with the obvious exceptions of language arts and math, the primary subjects of the standards themselves.

The focus on the use of language and numbers as important tools for expression within an educated society is understandable. But what of experiencing creative processes using other tools? What of practicing critical thinking with other tools? What about the sensory tools available to students?

For example, why not teach students to see deeply when looking at a piece of artwork? Yes, of course they would need language to discuss what they saw, but what if they chose to dance their reaction? Would this form of expression be any less valid than an essay? Not to me. It would not, however, give the student the appearance of being college and career ready according to the CCSS. What if that career choice was professional dancer?

Where is the one standard that matters in every grade: “The student will learn to enjoy school, get to choose areas of study aligned with their particular interests, have the opportunity to pursue those interests, (and I will add for the CCSS devotees in the audience), and receive training in English Language Arts and math that relate to that particular interest and via that particular field of study”? Read the rest of this entry »

How the Arts Can Lead in Implementing the Common Core

Posted by Sarah Zuckerman On September - 10 - 2012

Sarah Zuckerman

“To succeed today and in the future, America’s children will need to be inventive, resourceful, and imaginative. The best way to foster that creativity is through arts education,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in Re-Investing Through Arts Education:Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools.

The nation has deemed that learning in and through the arts is critical for the success of all students. This positions arts educators to take a leadership role in implementing what the Common Core means for learning. The arts are different than other subjects; this is what fosters innovative, creative, and critical thinkers. The Common Core opens a door for leadership, an opportunity for the best arts educators to model what teaching and learning should look like across the curriculum…are we ready for the challenge?

What do the arts do, exactly? How does this align with the Common Core?

How the arts progress student learning is too complex for one blog entry. However, I would like to draw attention to a few ways that arts-based learning models the English Language Arts/Literacy instructional shifts of the new standards.

1.  Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction
In arts classrooms that employ reading across the curriculum, this happens quite naturally. Whether we are reading a critique of an artist’s work or reading about the cultural context of a genre of work, art history, aesthetics, and critique all are grounded in content-rich nonfiction. Content-rich nonfiction media in the arts abound for every age from preschool to adult.

2.  Reading, writing, and speaking grounded in evidence from text, both literary and informational
The way a careful observer draws on evidence to interpret an image or production parallels the processes employed when a strong reader makes meaning from a text. Arts teachers require students to find evidence for their interpretations by asking, “What in the work made you say that?”, part of the visual thinking strategy used by many teachers. This focus on evidence is the basis of learning how to view art or performance, as it is learning how to read a text.

3.  Regular practice with complex text and its academic language
In an art museum there is no “Third Grade Gallery” or “High School Wing,” nor do we only show children theatre performances limited by reading level. To quote Steve Seidel, head of the Arts in Education Program at Harvard Graduate School of Education, “The very notion of theatre, of rehearsal, is the close examination of a text.” In the arts, students routinely confront images, lines in a script, etc., that need much more than a glance (or quick read) to understand. The arts train students to make meaning of complex works, the same ability that higher levels of text complexity demand. With the right scaffolding and time allotment, such work becomes accessible to all learners. Read the rest of this entry »

DREAM & TELL!: Arts Integration Models at Work (Part Two)

Posted by Merryl Goldberg On March - 16 - 2012

Merryl Goldberg

TELL! (Theater for English Language Learners) is a National Endowment for the Arts funded project in Arts in Education.

The program provides 120 fourth grade students at Maryland Elementary in Vista, CA with theater experiences aimed at increasing language acquisition and reading comprehension.

Here are the demographics for the students of Maryland Elementary: 62 percent are homeless, 72 percent are English language learners, and 96 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch.

I was at the school just this week and am simply awestruck by the enormous potential the kids all have and show via this program. As you can read by the demographics—kids at this school come into learning with a fair amount of challenges. Many at 10-years-old have responsibility for watching over younger siblings. Many of the kids come into the program having not been afforded previous arts experiences.

TELL! begins with a chapter book: Clementine, written by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Marla Frazee. I chose this book and series because it is extremely engaging and funny, and most kids can identify with the main character, Clementine, who is always getting into trouble, and believes since she was named after a fruit, her brother should be named after a vegetable and therefore only ever refers to him as celery, radish, spinach, broccoli, etc.

Despite being in the principal’s office nearly every day, and constantly getting into trouble for things like cutting her friend’s hair (but it looks wonderful!) Clementine‘s world is full and filled with supportive adults. Read the rest of this entry »

Art-Filled Learning: A Way of Life

Posted by Michelle Burrows On March - 16 - 2012

Michelle Burrows

The school is buzzing. Classrooms are alive with children moving, singing, working together, learning.

In this room, kindergarteners are creating “movement mountains,” their growing understanding of addition facts becoming clearer with every new, non-locomotor “mountain” they create.

In that room, third graders are using iPads to film each other’s first-person perspectives, discussing things such as voice quality and communication.

Down the hall, fifth graders have created “mini Mondrians”, using the work of Piet Mondrian to discuss area and perimeter.

And over there, fourth graders are creating lyrics—chorus and verses—for their “escape” songs, modeling cultural songs of slavery.

Were those kindergarteners trying out their “mountain” dance moves in dance class? Were the fourth graders learning song writing vocabulary in music class? Were the perspective videos taking place in the drama room? Nope.

All of these art-filled lessons were taking place in the regular classroom. Arts integration at its finest.  As we toured several elementary schools in the North Carolina A+ Schools Network, the value and importance of this key piece of arts education was plainly visible.

A+ Schools will tell you that there are three key parts to a true education in the arts: quality, exposure, and integration. Read the rest of this entry »

Stop Stealing Dreams (Part Four)

Posted by Seth Godin On March - 15 - 2012

Seth Godin

All week, we will be sharing (numbered) points from Seth Godin’s new education manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams (what is school for?). You can download a free copy of the full 100-page manifesto at Squidoo.com

17. Reinventing school

If the new goal of school is to create something different from what we have now, and if new technologies and new connections are changing the way school can deliver its lessons, it’s time for a change.

Here are a dozen ways school can be rethought:

Homework during the day, lectures at night

Open book, open note, all the time

Access to any course, anywhere in the world

Precise, focused instruction instead of mass, generalized instruction

The end of multiple-choice exams Read the rest of this entry »

Anthony Brandt

Anthony Brandt

Access to arts education is one of the civil rights issues of our time. I’d like to use brain science to explain why.

Our brains operate using two types of behavior: automated and mediated. Automated behavior puts a premium on reliability and efficiency. The brain achieves this by pruning: It streamlines the neural circuitry required to complete a task. Automated behavior can be innate, like breathing, or learned, like recognizing the alphabet.

Automated behavior is almost always unconscious. Throughout our lives, we develop and greatly rely on a host of automated skills. That’s why we don’t like backseat drivers—they force us to think about actions we’d prefer to remain unconscious.

We share the ability for automated mental behavior with all other animals. But as neuroscientist David Eagleman explains in his new book, Incognito, the human brain also has an advanced capacity for mediated behavior.

The goal of mediated behavior is flexibility and innovation. Mediated behavior depends on multiple brain circuits working on the same problem—what Eagleman terms “the team of rivals.” Instead of dedicating a limited neural network to a task, the brain tolerates redundancy and promotes networking. It’s what we mean by “keeping an open mind.”

Mediated behavior can also involve conscious awareness: We overhear and participate in the internal conversation of our thoughts. The vigorousness of our mediated behavior is unique in the animal kingdom. It is what defines us as human beings. Read the rest of this entry »

Observing Where We Are, How We Got Here, & What is Next

Posted by Jennifer Bransom On March - 15 - 2012

Jennifer Bransom

Bringing people together to partner on a hot-button issue such as quality is tricky. And that, my friends, is an understatement, wouldn’t you agree?

When navigating these waters it’s important to chart where you’ve been and how you arrived where you are.

Over the past two years Big Thought, with the support of The Wallace Foundation, has digitally documented our community’s quality teaching and learning work at Creating Quality. We hope this site will serve as a place for community dialogue and sharing, both locally and nationally.

All of the material in the Tools and Resource Library (e.g., letters, reports, templates) that were created in Dallas can be downloaded and edited per your needs. This is because we don’t imagine that quality looks the same in any two places.

Ownership of quality is essential. And, ownership only comes when you, as a fully engaged partner, have defined quality in terms that you are prepared to support. Then, and only then, can you assess and make investments to advance quality.

This is how the Dallas arts community embraced and folded-in district and community educators from the other four disciplines: English/language arts, math, science, and social studies. Read the rest of this entry »

ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Teaching Artists

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Charting the Future of the Arts

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices

Evaluation

Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.