Envisioning the Future with Avenal Elementary

Here at Turnaround Arts: California, we host regular professional development (PD) for teachers across our 17 schools. This is because we know that increasing the use of the arts as a learning and engagement tool increases the confidence and academic success of our students.

During our latest PD adventure, we partnered with P.S. ARTS to host an interactive training with the teachers of Avenal Elementary School. P.S. ARTS’ Darryl King, who serves seven Turnaround Arts: California schools as a Regional Coach, shared:

“At the heart of the arts, is love. P.S. ARTS believes that differentiating learning opportunities for teachers is how we communicate that love and hold space for educators to develop as committed practitioners of the arts. It is our unique ability to customize our coaching strategies, from teacher training, to one-on-one mentoring, to match the culture and needs of each individual school.”

We customized our latest teacher workshop by starting with dance. We like to boogie and we love to amp up our energy for the learning ahead.

At various dancing intervals – we paused the music and asked teachers to pair up for some introductory dialogue.

We asked them a few questions:

  • What was your school like before Turnaround Arts?
  • What did it feel like or look like?
  • How is your school improving through Turnaround Arts?
  • What does that feel like or look like?

Our final prompt:

  • What one word would you use to describe where you see your arts-rich school of the future? Create a tableau — a frozen group picture — demonstrating it.

One of our favorite tableaus represented strength.

Our teachers see their future arts-rich school as strong and powerful.

Principal Blanca Rodriguez knows why. 

“Teachers at Avenal Elementary School benefit greatly from these Turnaround Arts: California workshops. They get hands-on experience by trying techniques with their peers. They have the opportunity to ask questions for clarity and gain feedback on what they have already begun to implement in their classrooms.”

In their fourth year as a Turnaround Arts school, Avenal Elementary boasts some of  the highest annual growth rate in student test scores of any school in their district, with particular growth for English Language Learners. Workshops like this encourage teachers to sustain and deepen the integration of the arts into their classrooms.

As our teachers and principals use the arts as a learning and engagement tool, the reading, language, math, critical thinking, and social skills of our students begin to improve. We’re taking the steps to catalyze a positive and strong school environment where students are motivated to learn and teachers are eager to teach.

Midway through our Avenal workshop, Darryl King shared a refresher of Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), an arts-based strategy that many of our partner schools have implemented school-wide.

The VTS method encourages educators to ask three open-ended questions about visual art:

  1. What’s going on in this picture?
  2. What do you see that makes you say that?
  3. What more can we find?

Unlike some standardized tests and processes of rote memorization, these open-ended questions encourage students to closely look at an artwork, vocalize details they observe, and back up their comments using visual evidence. VTS fosters their ability to think critically while increasing their speaking and listening skills.

Teachers left the PD excited to return to their classroom and use tableau and VTS to support student learning.

It’s absolutely clear. We’re building student and teacher skills now to guide Avenal Elementary into a strong, and certainly arts-rich, future.

 

Thank you, Little Kids Rock!

by Cathryn Deering

Two years ago, I was sitting in my principal’s office trying to decide which sessions to take at the annual Turnaround Arts Summer Leadership Retreat. This was going to be our first year as a Turnaround Arts: California partner school, and I wanted to make sure I was signing up for classes that would best benefit me as a new music teacher and in implementing arts integration at my school. I now had my dream job — I stepped out of the general education classroom after 13 years to become the music teacher/Arts Coordinator at Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary. I had a music credential because that was my major in college, but I had never taught music before — I had no idea where to start. When I saw a class called “Little Kids Rock, Modern Band” I thought, “hmmm, that sounds interesting!” To top it off, they told us that they would tell us how to get free instruments, so I immediately signed up.

Not knowing what to expect, I walked into the room stuffed from the Airlie breakfast buffet and half asleep because of the three-hour time difference and I saw a bunch of guitars next to the seats. I thought, “Uh oh, I don’t know how to play the guitar — I’m a trained opera singer.” Well, wouldn’t you know, about 20 minutes later I’m playing the guitar to multiple rock songs. Granted, they were one-finger chords on the guitar, but by George I was playing the guitar! My food coma and jet lag dissipated and I WAS SOLD! I kept on imagining our kiddos playing these instruments with songs that they love and composing their own songs! If I could do it, anyone could do it! I was able to step out of my structured classical training and be comfortable doing something that was quite foreign to me, but something my alter-ego always wanted to do: play in a rock band!

The minute I got back to Los Angeles, I signed up for the Little Kids Rock workshops. This past summer, I attended the Little Kids Rock Modern Band Rockfest 2017 at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, Colorado. It was such an inspirational conference, and there were so many choices of wonderful workshops to attend. It didn’t matter your skill level, there was something for everyone — from creating a scope and sequence and assessments for Modern Band implementation, to Hip Hop for positive classroom culture, to using Ukulele with technology. There was even a class for how to put a drum set together (which was really useful for me, since my drum set was in pieces all over my classroom last year and YouTube was no help).

A very powerful piece of this conference was that they had sessions and speakers on music education advocacy. As a music educator in today’s climate, arts education advocacy is one of the most powerful tools that we have for sustaining and maintaining the arts in schools. Being at this conference, there was a sense of advocacy, unity, and inclusiveness that I had not experienced in a long time. The Little Kids Rock staff was incredibly organized and had us involved in activities where we were forced (and I mean that in a positive way) to interact with educators from all over the world. If we weren’t in workshops, we were busy finding things from our BINGO game or participating in jam sessions and performing for each other. Educators came from all over the world to learn, grow, and create together for the betterment of our children. I’m not saying that Modern Band is the only answer, but if we are implementing a growth mindset and creating a culture and climate of success and joy, which Modern Band definitely creates for all (students, staff, and stakeholders), then imagine what a positive light and power that can create in our world and redirect all of the negativity and toxic climate that our society is currently experiencing.

Thank you Turnaround Arts for introducing me to Little Kids Rock. Not only has this program supported me in creating a successful music program at Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary, but it has also supported arts integrated instruction. Little Kids Rock has not only given me skills to scaffold students learning various instruments, but also to create their own songs based on different content areas that they are learning in their classes. Another great thing about Little Kids Rock is that it doesn’t matter if you are a general education teacher or a music teacher, you will get something out of the program to best fit your instructional needs and the needs of your students.

Regional Coach Spotlight: Orange County Department of Education

By Dr. Lisa A. Crawford

Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) is nearing completion of our first year in Turnaround Arts: California’s Regional Coach Pilot Program. We are working with two middle schools in the Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD), Sierra Preparatory Academy and Willard Intermediate School, focused significantly towards supporting arts integration in every classroom.

Regional Coach Spotlight: Alameda County Office of Education

By Trena Noval, Louise Music, and Aaron Ableman

The Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) is a statewide and national leader for innovative, research-based, and arts-centered integrated learning practices, programs, and advocacy. Through the Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership of the Bay Area, ACOE partners with the Alameda County Arts Commission to mobilize our 18 school districts, higher education, business leaders, funders, parents, students, and community members around the arts as an essential part of a high quality education and a key equity issue.

Regional Coach Spotlight: North Coast Arts Integration Project

Collaboration, Creativity, Culture, & Community
By Mimi Dojka

I have worked as an arts educator throughout rural Northern California for many years, in pre-K through post-secondary settings. An essential aspect of this effort has involved collaboration, which I continue to practice in my work with the Turnaround Arts: California Regional Coach Pilot Program (RCPP) and the North Coast Arts Integration Project (NCAIP).

Regional Coach Spotlight: CoTA

With the Turnaround Arts: California Regional Coach Pilot Program (RCPP) in action at all of our 16 partner schools across the state, we are so grateful for the myriad of opportunities to work strategically, collectively, and collaboratively with organizations whose missions and methods are so aligned with our own. This month, we convened RCPP representatives from Alameda County Office of Education, Integrated Learning Department, Collaborations: Teachers and Artists (CoTA), North Coast Arts Integration Project, Orange County Department of Education, P.S. ARTS, and Sunset Center to reflect on where we’ve been as a learning community, what our school sites need most heading into the last few months of this school year, and how we can refine our practice in the weeks to come.

We recently interviewed Program Director Danielle Reo and Lead Artist Reneé Weissenburger from CoTA, which provides regional coaching at Burbank Elementary School (San Diego), about their experiences in the RCPP thus far.

Arts (Integration) in Action at Sierra Prep!

By Jacob Campbell, Program Manager for Turnaround Arts: California

I recently made a trip out to Santa Ana, CA, to see how Sierra Preparatory Academy’s first year as a Turnaround Arts: California partner school has been going, and I was blown away by the infusion of arts projects and instructional strategies that have begun to permeate all areas of this special school.

Regional Coach Spotlight: P.S. ARTS

The Turnaround Arts: California Regional Coach Pilot Program (RCPP) is up-and-running in our 16 partner schools across the state, and we are learning so much as we work collaboratively with local partners to align coaching, arts integration, and artist residency resources to target school-identified goals for growth. Recently, we convened our statewide network of coaches at the Turnaround Arts Local Program Staff Retreat generously hosted by Loyola Marymount University. Representatives from Alameda County Office of Education, Integrated Learning Department, CoTA (Collaborations: Teachers and Artists), North Coast Arts Integration Project, Orange County Department of Education, P.S. ARTS, and Sunset Center joined forces with Turnaround Arts teams from across the nation to discuss best practices in program implementation with an eye towards sustainability.

Following the retreat, we interviewed Dr. Kristen Paglia, CEO of P.S. ARTS, which provides regional coaching at six Turnaround Arts: California partner schools in LA County and beyond: Avenal Elementary (Avenal), Barton Elementary (San Bernardino), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary (Compton), Warren Lane Elementary (Inglewood), Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary (Watts), and Franklin S. Whaley Middle School (Compton).

Hoopa Valley Elementary Hosts Its First Acorn Festival

By Heather Heslup, Implementation Coordinator

Honoring the rich history of their culture and community, the Arts Leadership Team (ALT) at Hoopa Valley Elementary School (HVES) recently led students and teachers on a journey to produce their first annual Acorn Festival. What began as a simple sharing of the story of the acorn’s significance to the local Hupa, Karuk, and Yurok tribes of northern California resulted in a wonderful display of community pride and creative exploration.

Dance, Care, Share! Growing a Community Through Dance at Fremont/Lopez Elementary

By Shelese Douglas, EdD, Arts Integration & Dance Specialist at Fremont/Lopez Elementary

A “Dance, Care, Share” event happens when a catchy song, “When You’re Smiling” (the Leftover Cuties version), gets rooted in your brain and later spills out of your body in the form of a dance that is shared with nearly 300 kindergarten through second grade students…. or something like that! This event — part performance, part fall family festival, part pep rally — was inspired by an effort to support our school’s behavior intervention program. Originally, I was looking for a fun way to encourage kids to take care of each other. I felt that a little bit of dance, music, and fun could help our young people learn to connect with their classmates while giving older youth an opportunity to use leadership skills and foster empathy.