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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Wherever Curiosity Leads and Creativity Follows — by Mary Stone Hanley, George Mason University

There are many wonderful things that work in the education of young people today, however the most deeply positive work can be found wherever curiosity leads and creativity follows.  We are born curious; we want to know;  from infancy we touch, taste, reach for, wonder; and then we try to make something of it, shape it. In so doing we more throughly can understand it and transform it.   Cell phones, automobles, noodles, and rubber ducks, the Sistine Chapel, and hip hop lyrics are all a result of  human curiosity and creativy.  Wherever that spark is allowed to enter the classroom wonderful things happen.  I have seen the children involved and experienced the joy, excitement, and pride of accomplishment when they learn they are capable of answering the questions they wonder about after a process of discovery and interpretation.

The arts tap into our need to understand and to create, to change the world in so many ways–intimate and social, tiny and enormous.  The artist, whether wondering dabbler, serious student, or professional is engaged in perception, conceptualization, expression, and transformation of self, culture, and medium, all of which are at the core of making meaning of the world.  Because the struggle of transformation and expression is so personal the work becomes relevant and ownership increases.  One can see the impact on young people involved in arts-based work in the way they focus and participate.   It’s a wonderful thing we must acknowledge, educate people about, and demand room in the curriculum for.

Dr. Mary Stone Hanley, Professor, Initiative for Transformative Education, George Mason University, has been an educator in pub­lic schools and higher education for more than 35 years. She is a playwright, screenwriter, and poet. In Cultural Responsiveness, Racial Identity and Academic Success: A Review of Literature In (prepared for the Heinz Endowments, June 2009)  she highlights the necessity to employ the arts as a means to racial uplift and building on student cultural assets.

The Shift to “We” with Teacher Education Programs and Teaching Artists – Browning Neddeau, Faculty, USF and SJSU credentialing programs

The shift from “you” and “me” to “we” is highly relevant to my work in teacher education and equally as relevant to the credential students served in teacher education programs.  Teacher education is a field that is constantly evolving.  In 1983, A Nation At Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform pushed teachers to focus on accountability in student achievement.  Some states have since tied student achievement to a teacher’s salary or employment status.  This type of relationship is sometimes coined “performance-based pay”.

The latest evolution in teacher education is the understanding and appreciation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  A Nation At Risk, performance-based pay, and CCSS may all be well-intentioned, but all three polarize our work as professionals in education.  They push teachers to focus on student achievement in their individual classrooms and to isolate student achievement in certain content areas such as English language arts and mathematics instead of celebrating the individuality within each of us.  They encourage a departmentalized learning mentality rather than an integrated approach to learning, exploring, and growing.

Emphasizing the need for collaboration in teacher education courses may be a powerful tool as preservice teachers become inservice teachers.  This is especially true as attention grows with conversations concerning STEM to STEAM and how both of these contribute to student achievement while embracing individuality and, hence, creativity in all of us.  I predict that such conversations in teacher education courses will demand greater collaboration with teaching artists and professors in teacher education as standards-based instruction is neither new nor disappearing from the teaching profession.

Through collaboration with teaching artists, teachers can blend their skills in content pedagogy with effective and meaningful experiences in the arts.  Early experiences with teaching artists in teacher education programs will allow preservice teachers to engage in the power of art-making early in their teaching careers.

I think that engaging in a shift from “you” and “me” to “we” truly needs to be embraced early in one’s teaching career before novice teachers become “too busy” to explore alternative ways of knowing that may benefit their students tenfold.  This leaves us with the question: How shall we start this important dialogue about the shift to “we” with teacher education programs and teaching artists that is both evidence-based and rewarding for all involved in the collaborative efforts?

– Browning Neddeau
Faculty member at the University of San Francisco and San Jose State University in their multiple subjects teacher credentialing programs

Quest for Environmental Justice: How Arts Learning Can Help – by Carl Anthony, Co-director, Breakthrough Communities

Many years ago when I was a Professor at the University of California College of Natural Resources, teaching one of the first university based courses on environmental justice several of my students were interested in teaching about environmental issues in multi racial schools. In our class discussions one day, a young woman became emotionally upset as she was describing her work as a volunteer in an after school program at a middle school in Berkeley. She was teaching the young people about separating compost for the garden, and cans, bottles, newspapers in kitchen containers for curbside recycling. It turned out that one of a dozen young people in the after school program, was homeless. She was living with her family in a car. Her mother, father and brother carried most of their belongings with them in the car, and got rid of the trash in waste containersaround the city. My student was devastated that the child was homeless and was upset that she didn’t know how to talk about this in the after school group. She wanted to know whether homelessness was an environmental issue.

At the other end of the spectrum, I heard the story of a middle school kid from West Oakland, who got a scholarship to go to a fancy private school in Marin County. The students in his class took turns in hosting pajama parties at their large and wealthy homes. When it came to his turn to host the pajama party, this young man invited a half dozen of his classmates to spend the weekend with him in the housing project where he lived in West Oakland. The kids from Marin County loved being in the ‘hood. They didn’t want to go home.

These stories illustrate the challenges of educating kids in a time of environmental devastaion. growing inequality, media hype, and demographic change. What should the learning of students be when parents have lost their jobs? What should it be when a father or brother has been sent prison? Or has been deported? How do we help the next generation cope with the realities of life as they experience it? How can we support them in building emotional resilience, hunger for knowledge, skills and robust leadership that our society will need to create a better future for everyone? How can we support attitudes of self-respect, excitement about learning, hope for changing the world? It seems to me, the arts have an important role to play here. With their paintings and sculptures, photographs and video documentaries, music and dramas, the arts can help our young people make sense of their world, giving them the confidence to reinvent the future.

One of the most exciting movements in the world today, that is reinventing our future is, the environmental justice movement. It is a large movement that needs the nourishment and creativity of the arts, and the tools of science and technology in support of a purposeful and sustainable economy. The environmental justice movement is a large movement. It brings together the pursuit of healthy communities, the greening of our cities, the saving of energy, the creation of opportunities for everyone, the end of homelessness and hunger, social and racial justice and the quest to save the planet.

We look forward to the upcoming Summer Institute “Inventing Our Future” August 7-9, 2012, where I will join with Professor Manuel Pastor from the University of Southern California in presentations and discussion of these topics. I also look forward to joining in an afternoon workshop on “Building Healthy Healthy Communities” at the Summer Institute, led by Paloma Pavel, PhD, CoDirector of Breakthrough Communities, and Jill Ratner, President of the Rose Foundation.

Carl Anthony
Co Director
Breakthrough Communities
Oakland, California

Special Guest Bloggers Join the Conversation This Week!

This week, we have invited some Guest Bloggers to respond to the latest synthesis of ideas that are emerging from our conversations over the past 4 months.  We are so appreciative of their taking the time to lend their experience and wisdom so that we can emerge from this process with a set of shared ideas that will help multiple organizations, institutions and individuals collectively chart a path toward student success and healthy communities.

Let me introduce our bloggers, who will be posting throughout the week:

John Abodeely, Manager, National Partnerships, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, has worked for national arts and arts education organizations for about a decade. His specialties include systemic approaches to improving the access to untested subjects, trans-institutional coordination for mission-based work, and breakthrough strategy for nonprofits.

Carl Anthony, Co-director, Breakthrough Communities Project, is an architect, author and urban / suburban / regional design strategist, and has served as Acting Director of the Community and Resource Development Unit at the Ford Foundation. He was a founder and, for 12 years Executive Director, of the Urban Habitat Program in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Audrey Brown, Visual Arts Teacher, was selected as San Leandro High School Teacher of the Year 2009. She is the Chair of the San Leandro High School Art Department, and a practicing visual artist.

Dr. Mary Stone Hanley, Professor, Initiative for Transformative Education, George Mason University, has been an educator in pub­lic schools and higher education for more than 35 years. She is a playwright, screenwriter, and poet. In Cultural Responsiveness, Racial Identity and Academic Success: A Review of Literature In (prepared for the Heinz Endowments, June 2009)  she highlights the necessity to employ the arts as a means to racial uplift and building on student cultural assets.

Joe Landon, Executive Director of the California Alliance for Arts Education, whose professional background includes being a speechwriter and senior consultant in the state assembly, a K-8 music and drama teacher, a preschool teacher, and a playwright, composer and television writer.

Martha Montufar, Arts Education Consultant and Parent Educator, is an experienced program director, planner, trainer, facilitator, teaching artist and designer of curriculum for education programs and arts integration. Her recent work incorporates using the arts to engage students, their parents, teachers, and administrators in authentic partnership for increased student achievement.

Browning Neddeau is a fourth year Learning & Instruction doctoral student at the University of San Francisco where his research is focused on arts education.  He is an adjunct faculty member at the University of San Francisco and San Jose State University in their multiple subjects teacher credentialing programs.

Nancy Ng, Director of Community Development of Luna Dance Institute, has worked as a performing artist, choreographer and educator for her entire life, including a long tenure as choreographer, performer and administrator for Asian American Dance Performances. She holds a teaching credential from San Francisco State University and Ng received the first national award for mentorship from the National Dance Education Organization in 2003.

Dr. Lauren Stevenson, Junction Box Consulting, has been a leader in arts education for over 12 years. As the principal at Junction Box Consulting, she specializes in research and program development connecting arts, education, and youth development.

Art and Science and Dance Your PhD

Understanding Through Tangential Questioning: Art, Dance Your Ph.D., and the Large Hadron Collider

This is a great blog post on the intersection of artists and scientists.  A little excerpt posted below; he also talks about a collaboration between CERN and  Ars Electronica.  And if you’ve never checked out Dance Your PhD, definitely do!!

Art and science have a longstanding relationship, and it does a disservice to both to pretend that isolation from one another is the best approach. For example, there is a long history of illustration in biology. Chemistry uses pictograms with specific rules to convey structures and arrangements of atoms and molecules. Many of these traditional methods have specific rules to most accurately represent ideas, or particular aspects of an idea. These methods of visualization are developed to work within the scientific community, frequently to the exclusion of the lay person. But interesting things begin to happen once those strict rules of representation are relaxed. Most specifically, in Dance Your Ph.D. we see scientists imagine their works through dance.”

Why Teaching Artists Will Lead the Charge in Audience Engagement

An articulation of the widening role in culture (and society) of the experienced teaching artist…

By KELLY DYLLA  on the Creatiquity blog:

“The point here is not that teaching artist work exists – it certainly does and has been around for at least a couple of decades. The point is that teaching artists can offer the kind of thinking needed for core artistic decisions and even market strategy to help develop truly innovative programming. Designing the experience with a work of art is now as important as the work of art itself, and we need new kinds of talent making key decisions if arts organizations are to survive.

In August, the Seanse Art Center in Oslo, Norway will hold The World’s First International Teaching Artist Conference. With teaching artists from all over the world convening to discuss this still-emerging discipline, I am eager to see how they view teaching artists’ role in the equally adolescent field of audience engagement.”

New Engines of Growth: Five Roles for Arts, Culture and Design

This new report from the National Governors Assn’s Center for Best Practices is an amazing blueprint for arts integration in industry, community revitalization and education.  Includes roles for teaching artists and artists live-work spaces among other creative ideas.  Addresses a slight twist on our big question by demonstrating how the arts can create a better future for everyone.
“With concerns over job creation and business growth holding a prominent—and persistent—position on policy agendas today, governors are increasingly finding innovative ways to support economic growth, according to a new report from the National Governors Association.
New Engines of Growth: Five Roles for Arts, Culture and Design focuses on the role that arts, culture and design can play in governors’ policies to create jobs and boost their economies in the short run and transition to an innovation-based economy in the long run.”