This is the online stream for sharing conversations that happened throughout the Greater Bay Area from March through June 2012 around the question:

How can we collectively transform public education through the arts to create a better future for everyone?

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Thoughts from Ann Wettrich

Following up on my last post, I thought post some of the notes from the May meeting of the Alliance’s Teaching and Learning Oversight Committee.

Meeting Participants: Julia Marshall, San Francisco State; Ann Wettrich, CCA/MOCHA; Jochelle Perena, Luna Dance Institute (sitting in for Nancy Ng); Rica Anderson, Cal Performances; Belinda Taylor, Teaching Artists Organized/TAO (sitting in for Sabrina Klein); Carolyn Carr, ACOE/Alliance.

Mapping the Next Ten Years

TOPIC: New organizing theories and strategies

Ann described the current phase of the strategic planning process that the Alliance is currently leading. The big idea is to seed strategic conversations in a variety of educational settings with the goals of o Distributing leadership
o Building a platform or a root system to help new leaders to emerge o Shifting from “us and them” to “we”.
o Moving toward a regional scale.
o Summarizing and synthesizing the information

One of the strategies behind the Mapping the Next Ten Years is inspired by Meg Wheatley’s writing on organizational practice that make links to ideas coming out of new science. For example, chaos theory provides new lenses on how change happens via non-linear trajectories–communities of practice, communication across networks and the processes of emergence. . Wheatley helps to identify and mine new science metaphors and patterns to shift our thinking and can influence how we approach our work in transforming public education in and through the arts.

Ann discussed the value of the arts as a disciplinary practice and way of thinking that we should not lose site of in our work. She described a CCA graduate class she is co-teaching with Trena Noval: Teaching as Creative Practice where students engage CCA as a learning lab to understand teaching from an artists point of view. She told the story a student who was signed up for a course entitled “Chasing the Wild Bee” who was uncertain whether to remain in the class, questioning its relevance (to her practice as a photo major). The instructor, an artist who collaborates with bees, discussed with her the generative possibilities of uncertainty—not being able to specifically say how the course would inform her work but affirming that it would. The student decided to continue in the class and later report that it transformed her entire approach to creative practice.

Ann asked: How are we going to make meaning from these experiences and conversations? She suggests that we need to make “buckets” [organized categories] to be able to easily access important information and emerging ideas. We need synthesizing strategies. For example, we can see in the dialogue is that there are hubs of collaborators working together on specific projects. It might make sense to map these hubs to better understanding the landscape and where to locate oneself within it. She also imagined a cartoonist following art education practitioners and advocates around, observing and telling comic tales about our work in the field, adding new perspectives with a sense of humor and play.

Jochelle expressed her interest in bringing the conversation process back to the team at Luna to convene a dialogue with colleagues there.

TOPIC: Role of the arts and the practice of inquiry.

There was a lively discussion about the role of the arts in society. Research supports this notion that art is the only way to reach all children. It inherently is experiential and project based like the education in Venezuela. El Sistema is a model of teaching that supports music for every child, every day.

Another example is the Edible Schoolyard that Alice Waters created at a Berkeley school. The project gets kids out of the passive sitting roles in the classroom and gets them collaborating as placemakers. Some teaching kills the active pursuit of ideas. The arts can open opportunities for exploration, research and discovery.

Julia talked about cross-disciplinary conversations, place making, recursiveness, and how what Fritzof Capra wrote about 40 years ago is cycling back through. We are seeing incremental growth. She recommends Sarah Smitherman’s essay Chaos and Complexity Theories: Wholes and Holes in in Chaos, Complexity, Curriculum and Culture (Eds: Doll, Jr., Fleener, Trueit, and St. Julien).

The conversation turned to interdisciplinary teaching practices. Julia referred to the TfU framework’s “Dimensions of Understanding” that posit disciplinary knowledge, purposes, methods and forms as ways of knowing and provide a common language framework for transdisciplinary teaching and learning. She mentioned the work Howard Gardner, Victoria Boix-Mansilla on rethinking interdisciplinarity. Julia is interested in adding practitioners and aesthetics to the dimensions.

TOPIC: Integrated Learning Specialist Program/ILSP

Carolyn reported on ILSP and how Summer Intensive Course A is already full. The committee recommends that ideally the courses be taken in sequential order as Course A is foundational and puts
everyone on the same page for Course B and C. However, the committee understands there are logistical challenges that may make this difficult.

TOPIC: Regional Summer Institute

Carolyn shared a sampling of titles of proposals and names of presenters to inform the group and generate excitement about the event. Recommendations were made for plenary speakers: Julia recommends inviting The Bee Collective from the East. Lois knows them. Rica recommends Gary Golden, Kennedy Center, a futurist who talks about how to predict trends. Ann recommended Kevin Bayuk—from the SF Permaculture Institute.

TOPIC: Collaboration

“Almost everything I do is a collaboration.”

Rica raised a question about collaboration. Cal Performances is embarking on a project with a “yet-to-be found” afterschool organizations to bring teaching artists to site and visit artists in an afterschool program with the musical program, El Sistema, from Venezuela. Destiny Arts or Out of Site (Beth Rubenstein) were suggested as possible afterschool connections. Rica then asked: How do you pick your partners? How do you maintain and sustain partnerships? Ideas flowed:

o What are you each getting out of it?
o What are you each putting in to it?
o What are your agreements?
o What are your roles and responsibilities?
o Remember, you are creating something together and need to co own it. o What are rules, shared agreements, both/and thinking?
o Expand open-ended process.
o Who’s going to facilitate?
o Who is going to create and hold the vision?
o Rotate that role.
o Mine the group and learn the assets
o Start with central core people.
o Apply teaching artist practices:
o Break down barriers,
o Prioritize
o Use frameworks as common language tools.
o Goals and aims have to match.
o Both partners need to be flexible.
o What are our criteria?
o This is a shared project, Again, whose project is this?
o Ownership is crucial. Do you want the partner to take over?

NEXT MEETING: Fall 2012

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